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As Long as We Remember...

August 7, 2007

Dealing With Illegal Immigration - Part Two

Farrell Keough

In yesterday's column a discussion of the effects and various legal perspectives on illegal immigrants was presented. Although this looming crisis seems at times insurmountable, we must remember that we live in a nation with a ".government of the people, by the people, for the people." [Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address November 19, 1863]. To that end, we have some legal remedy and fortunately a sheriff with the strength of character to adopt this redress.

As previously mentioned, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) under 287(g) has mechanisms to authorize, train, provide assistance, and information to local law enforcement for dealing with illegal immigrants. Although in office for only a few months, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins has already moved forward on the process of implementing these programs.

Recognizing that dealing with federal authorities moves at the speed of government, Sheriff Jenkins has been able to establish the requirements necessary for such delegated authority. Already in place is a drafted Memorandum of Agreement, in compliance with federal regulations, and every other necessary condition to execute these enforcement tools.

The following is a concise account on implementation of this plan. As a result of normal criminal investigation or citizen complaint, circumstances the agency is obligated to handle on a daily basis, an officer may encounter a suspect. Thus, conditions already exist for our officers precipitating a need for such a coordinated effort. In synchronization with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), the Frederick County Sheriff's office will have access to a national database and information on immigration status and existing criminal violations.

A select patrol team of deputies, criminal investigators, narcotic investigators, and community response officials will have training for use of this system and enforcement requirements. The men and women on these teams will acquire the expertise currently lacking in this area of enforcement. These teams will have the knowledge to determine whether the individuals they come in contact with are here illegally or in violation of immigration status. Through field interviews and a thorough understanding of U.S. legal status requirements, verification of this status can be made.

Once a determination is completed, these officers are delegated the authority to detain the person or persons. Authority for deputies and correctional officers is derived from completing this training and acquiring certification through this program. Thus, the hurdle between local, state, and federal jurisdiction is vaulted.

These individuals will form a defensive wall for protecting Frederick County from criminals who have committed such crimes as rape, drug sales, illegal gun use, thefts and even gang activity. National statistics indicate that 50% of gang members are in the country illegally. A larger percentage holds a major leadership position within those gangs. Additionally, this will increase the ability of our local law enforcement to help with Homeland Security investigations and possibly identify terrorists.

Once these processes are in place, manifold positive consequences will flow from these actions. For instance, if an incarcerated individual is found to have an outstanding arrest warrant for a crime more serious than committed in Frederick County, that individual may be transferred directly to federal control and prosecuted. This will reduce both local operating costs as well as possible court costs for our community.

A housing reimbursement through DHS/ICE will accompany an individual detained under this delegated authority. Since we all pay federal taxes, this potential flow of money will be return to our local community. As has been noted on multiple occasions, Sheriff Jenkins continuously monitors and verifies our tax dollars are being spent in the most judicious manner available. This program has a proven track record of discouraging illegal immigrants from taking up residence within the areas it is applied.

Prior to implementing this agenda, Sheriff Jenkins met with a peer in North Carolina. Sheriff Jim Pendergraph of Mecklenburg County runs the first department east of Arizona to implement 287(g); and his only county is the first to deploy this program in a jail setting. It has been his finding that illegal aliens tend to locate in areas where enforcement is lax or non-existent. Hence, the population of illegal immigrants diminishes under the auspices of this integrated enforcement course of action.

Deputies and correctional officers will understand the complex immigration laws and apply these practices to their daily functions. They will use this new expertise to arrest and detain dangerous criminals at large, combat gang activity within the county, communicate information to other correctional officers, and provide valuable information to other agencies within the county, state, and national government.

Sheriff Jenkins has taken a necessary and substantial step in dealing with this looming crisis. In a time when our national leadership has been unable - or unwilling - to accept the responsibility for protecting us from this criminal element and most local enforcement agencies have been willing to accept the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" rather than "take arms against a sea of troubles", Sheriff Jenkins has stepped forward. Soon, we will see the results of this work behind the scenes and the promises made will be kept.

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