Construction of the border wall came to an abrupt stop by President Joe Biden, leaving area residents left with more problems than just a lack of national security. [Photo by John Backer]

What’s happening at Arizona’s southern border is a humanitarian crisis, and it feels more palpable by the day.

I’ve had the privilege of learning quite a bit over the last few months from regional leaders like Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot. I also recently met with Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls at City Hall about the drastic consequences we can expect if and when the Biden administration lifts Title 42, which President Donald Trump used to facilitate quicker immigrant expulsions during the pandemic.

In short, the problem is expected by double – if not worse. U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 221,303 illegal immigrants in March alone, and 109,549 of those encounters (50 percent) were processed for expulsion under Title 42.

This increase will exacerbate bandwidth issues for our border agents, who made a record high 1.9 million arrests last year. Arizona’s agents are bearing the brunt of this crisis, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, who reported in April that the Yuma Sector has “experienced the greatest percentage increase in apprehensions from the previous year of any Border Patrol sector.”

This is inexcusable, and, as a former lawmaker who advocated for stronger border security, I know that a lot more can be done.

So, a few weeks ago, I reached out to two experts in the field: Paul Babeu, who served as Pinal County sheriff and as the Army Commander of Task Force Yuma, and Ron Colburn, who served as U.S. Border Patrol’s Chief Patrol Agent in Yuma.

Our conversations resulted in a bold new initiative that we’re calling “Operation Copper Shield.” The initiative will allow me to protect Arizona by gaining much greater operational control of the border in my first 100 days in the governor’s office.

Here’s how it works.

My first action will be declaring a state of emergency, which will trigger new military authorities necessary for furthering our mission. I will deploy 1,200 National Guard troops at highly visible locations and smuggling routes along the border. These troops will be fully armed with weapons and ammunition and will be authorized to operate under special tactical and operational guidelines.

This thundering show of armed military force will deter drug cartels and human traffickers from operating in Arizona.

I will then partner with the state legislature to secure long-term financing. This includes but is not limited to $200 million in emergency funding for the mission itself; $60 million for county sheriffs and county attorneys to enforce our state laws; and $50 million in Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission funds to create Anti-Smuggling Units, as well as hire men and women to assist in prosecuting border-related crimes.

When combined with other common-sense policies – such as strengthening our trespass laws, building the border wall on state land, and declaring the cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations so that the U.S. military and law enforcement have the tools they need to stop them – there is no doubt that we can get this crisis under control.

What we need is the will to act.

At a time when the federal government is not fulfilling its constitutional obligations under Article IV Section 4, I truly believe that Operation Copper Shield will protect families across Arizona for years to come.

Matt Salmon, a former member of Congress, is a Republican candidate for governor. You can find more details about his plan at

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