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I know they’ll deny they’re heroes, but they’d be wrong.

I’m talking about the three Arizona sheriffs who have fearlessly put themselves on the line by speaking out against the federal government’s failure to secure our southern border and stop the invasion of illegal aliens, street criminals and drug-cartel gangs into sovereign U.S. territory.

You’ve seen them on television and read about them, too. They’re tough on crime, criminals and illegal aliens. They believe in following the law and living up to the oaths they take. That’s why they’re called lawmen.

Somebody has to do it, but in Arizona it gets more and more difficult.

It’s not easy going against your own government – especially publicly – but when your own government takes legal action against sworn officers of the law who are doing their job to defend citizens and control rising criminal activity in their jurisdictions, clearly something is wrong.

In that case, speaking out against such travesty does take courage, and courage is the hallmark of heroism.

Because of that, my heroes on this dark page of American history are those three Arizona lawmen: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

I’ve had the honor of meeting all three men via interview many times over the last few years on my KSFO radio program. In addition, I had the honor of meeting Sheriff Dever in person and discussing the issues he and all Arizona lawmen face daily in their jobs.

The common thread among them is their dedication to the law and to keeping citizens safe as they go about their daily lives.

Another common thread is that many in their own state and in Washington make their jobs difficult; sometimes, almost impossible.

As if it weren’t bad enough that they’re dealing with the growing militancy of Mexican and Central American drug cartels in Arizona, they’re dealing with the fact that the U.S. Justice Department has sued Arizona and the ACLU has individually sued every sheriff (15) in the state.

Why? Because Arizona passed, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed, S.B. 1070, which reiterates federal law, essentially saying it’s illegal to be in the United States illegally.

Gee, what a concept – but apparently the administration of Barack Obama doesn’t have the word “illegal” in its dictionary when it comes to borders and citizenship.

So Obama called out the dogs from Eric Holder’s Justice Department and sued the state. Raising the stakes, Obama called the Arizona law an affront to, and violation of, human rights before the United Nations, putting Arizona on the international stage.

In addition to all that, Sheriff Arpaio faces lawsuits and federal investigations, which claim racial discrimination against Hispanics.

And, the cartels have put a price on his head.

Local opponents also hate him because he houses prisoners in tents, serves bologna sandwiches for lunch and dresses prisoners in pink. It appears the administration knows the weaknesses of its position and is piling on accusations to divert attention.

Larry Dever was elected chair of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Coalition and he also heads the Immigration and Border Security Committee of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

While he’s not happy about the lawsuits, Dever sees them as a way to call national attention to the border problems and force the country to face reality.

He knows the problems. The recent murder of Rob Krentz on his own ranch, by an illegal likely involved in drug trafficking, was in Dever’s county.

Sheriff Dever told me Krenz was more than a rancher; he was a friend, and he isn’t the only friend or co-worker Dever has lost in this ongoing war within our borders.

Have no doubt, it is a war.

I spoke with Sheriff Paul Babeu a week ago, and he described areas where the cartels have full control, with spotters hunkered down in mountain caves equipped with scopes, supplies and weapons. From there, with a clear line-of-sight view for more than 40 miles, they direct movement of drugs and people across the border and through the state.

Pinal County alone is more than 5,400 square miles, larger than three states and filled with mountains, canyons and desolation.

Babeu told me that estimates are that more than a million illegals move through Arizona annually, fewer than 250,000 are caught. Of those, 17 percent have U.S. criminal records. That means they’re repeat border crossers and criminals.

Area families are sitting ducks for criminals. Its ranching country and houses are miles apart. One resident told Babeu that she doesn’t feel free in her own country. He told me most are armed.

Many fear calling for help because the cartel would seek retribution. Sure enough, one resident who did call the sheriff was targeted.

Just a week ago, while she was at work, her house was burgled and the safe torn from the wall. They picked it open, stealing 11 guns, all the ammo plus food, batteries, night-vision binoculars and more. Footprints of five people led to the mountain hideaways.

Babeu told me of recent crimes just 35 miles from Phoenix: One deputy was ambushed by six cartel criminals and shot with an AK-47.

Two weeks later, two cartel members were killed with one shell from an optically enhanced weapon – a deliberate gang hit.

Babeu has said the government has become our enemy and detailed his concerns that Washington has given up. Example: The feds posted signs along I-8 warning drivers that it’s dangerous there, criminals are in the area and stopping would be risky.

This is in the United States of America!

These three sheriffs are heroes, as are all law-enforcement and border-patrol personnel doing their jobs, supported by American citizens but thwarted by the government.

What’s wrong with this picture, and when will it stop?

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