TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A group of border sheriffs says that a border wall is only a sound bite and "not a cogent" public policy position that's needed to secure the border.

The Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition said in a Jan. 8 letter the wall, which is at the center of the nation's longest and ongoing partial government shutdown, has become a lightning rod of division that detracts from other approaches to securing the border.

But the problem lies in many other areas, like the understaffed ports of entry, said chairman Leon Wilmot, who is the sheriff in Yuma County, Arizona.

"We should not let partisan politics stand in the way of securing the border. It is clear we have done so for many decades and through several administrations. We need to secure the border for public safety, national security and human rights reasons," Wilmot wrote.

Wilmot did not immediately return a call or email from The Associated Press.

His letter repeated what border sheriffs have long said: that a border wall is only part of a solution to a decades-long problem.

In fact, many more illegal drugs that come from Mexico do so through ports of entry, where all drivers and pedestrians make contact with a customs officer. Tunnels have also become increasingly common for smuggling drugs, and cartels have no shortage of creative means for getting their loads to the U.S.

Illegal border crossings are also at near-historic lows. The number of arrests that Border Patrol agents made last fiscal year was down by 80 percent compared with the height of illegal immigration in the 1990s and 2000s, even as the number of agents on the force doubled.