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July 21, 2015

When Sheriff, ICE Cooperate Part One

Guest Columnist

Chuck Jenkins


(Editor’s Note: Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins spoke July 15 at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. Other speakers included Rep. Lou Barletta (R., PA); Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies; Center for Immigration Studies; and Dan Cadman, Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies). Some editorial changes have been made to comply with style, but the content remains the same.)


I’ve been Frederick County sheriff for nine years. We’re located about one hour northwest of Washington right here. It’s a beautiful county, beautiful community, population of about 240,000 people. I’ve been in law enforcement 25 years locally. I sit on two committees of the National Sheriffs Association, the Homeland Security Committee and also the Immigration and Border Security Committee.

I can speak with some authority to the issues and give a real good local perspective. I’m a strong proponent of law enforcement cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

During my tenure, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has had a very successful relationship with ICE. It works through our 287(g) partnership program. We implemented that in 2008. When Secure Communities came online, we were the second county in the State of Maryland to go with that program.

Since the inception of 287(g) to date, we’ve placed detainers on 1,355 criminal illegal immigrants in Frederick County, people who were in this country illegally, in our county, and who committed crimes against our citizens. One thousand two hundred thirty-four of those criminals were turned over to ICE and placed into removal proceedings. There have been a total of 166 prosecutorial releases during that period of time.

I want you to really listen to this, because this is important. Included in that number: 43 validated transnational criminal gang members, 30 additional suspected gang members. Among those – 14 of those had specialized training in military sniper, commando, knife fighting and martial arts. Those are the types of individuals coming across our borders into our communities.

In 2014 alone in Frederick County, eight detainers were placed on detainees charged with rape and sexual offenses on children between the ages of five and 14. Crimes committed for those immigrant removals also include aggravated assault, rape and sex offenses, assault on law enforcement, domestic violence, drug trafficking, burglary, theft and child abuse.

People, we have accomplished this with no drain on local resources or tax dollars. Our partnership with ICE has become a course of what we do normally in our detention center. It’s an easy program. All you have to do is have the will to do it.

As the sheriff of Frederick County, there are a couple other points I want to emphasize this morning. And listen, this is all about public safety, national security, and the rule of law in the United States of America.

The first and most critical point, I think, is ICE detainers on individuals in our country illegally must be honored by sheriffs, jails, prisons, state and local law enforcement from coast to coast. Not to honor those detainers knowingly and releasing these people back onto our streets is – I think – a dereliction of duty. It’s wrong and jeopardizes the safety of our citizens. This is why we’re here today. This is exactly what we’re talking about.

You know, we see this so many times, day-in. day-out, week-in, week-out. It just so happens now the untimely death and the tragic death of Kate Steinle, I think has driven this point to where it is today.

Effective information sharing between law enforcement – state, federal, local – is critical and it’s just not done. To honor these detainers and protect American citizens, we have to have a tighter source of information sharing.

I can also attest, as a local law enforcement agency, you don’t have to be in a partnership. You don’t have to make a commitment to ICE. They’re not looking for a program partner. They’re simply looking for cooperation. They’re looking for me as a sheriff to pick up the phone, or they’re looking for me to pick up the phone when they call to ask, “Sheriff, we have an individual with a detainer; will you hold him?” Yes, we will in Frederick County.

Every sheriff across this country, every law enforcement agency, is obligated and should step up and, in effect, become a force multiplier for ICE because that’s what we do. The dynamic of law enforcement has changed in this country. The dynamic of crime, all the criminal gang activity, has changed the face of what we do on the streets. And we must face it. This is a part of it. So I do think we have a role in it.

Non-cooperation and not honoring these detainers actually creates a sanctuary jurisdiction. It does not protect, but in fact jeopardizes your community. Again, we’ve seen it time after time. Tragedies play out, day after day. People are killed, murdered, raped, robbed, traffic crashes that kill our citizens. And again, many of these people are released from local jails and returned to the streets simply for lack of cooperation.

In my mind, there is no reason an ICE detainer can’t be handled in the exact same way as a state-to-state fugitive warrant, Okay? Different authorities, but you could really simplify this process just like we do fugitive warrants on a daily basis.

There are several jurisdictions here in Virginia and Maryland which are non-cooperating cities and counties – in effect, sanctuaries. A recent case involved a convicted sex offender who had a detainer not honored and was back on the street and offended again. I’ll tell you this: in Frederick County – there’s much less chance of an occurrence like this than there is in these sanctuary counties and jurisdictions.

Federal legislation should be passed to empower and mandate that all state and local law enforcement will cooperate with ICE in situations where ICE detainers are placed for holds. And, as I told Congressman Lou Barletta (R., PA) today, I would support anything he introduces like that and certainly encourage the National Sheriffs to be there with you. That legislation should also include limited authority for state and local law enforcement, because what we do on the streets every day has changed dramatically over the years.

The cost of enforcement is much more cost-efficient when we encounter and turn over a criminal immigrant in a controlled environment like the jail rather than to make ICE have to go back out onto the street and go through the process all over again. It takes much more time, effort, resources and manpower expended for ICE to take custody of that person out of jail a week ago. Frankly it doesn’t make sense. It also saves local tax dollars because that offender does not now get rearrested and come back into your local jail.

The Senate and House should be encouraged by all sheriffs and police chiefs to pass the Davis-Oliver Act. They were the two officers killed in California by a previously deported criminal immigrant who was a known Mexican Pride criminal gang member. And again, I’m calling for all sheriffs and all chiefs to support this act in the Senate.

My question today is when are Americans going to be outraged? When are we going to have enough? Kate Steinle should never have died. She should be alive today. There should never be another tragedy in America like that.

A little bit of leverage is to cooperate with ICE. The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funding program gives money to local jails and detention centers, supporting efforts to house federal detainees. If you don’t cooperate, cut them off. Dollars motivate action.

Secure Communities now replaced with Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). I’m disappointed in that. This waters down the program almost to ineffectiveness. This new framework restricts ability of ICE agents to do their jobs, and again, jeopardizes public safety. ICE agents in the field want to carry out their mission. They look for local law enforcement. DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is allowing illegal immigrants continually to commit less-serious crimes, to eventually become aggravated felons and more violent criminals before eventually taking custody and taking the steps necessary for removal.

Where are we today with this? Going back to the ’50s, ’60s, even into the ’70s and ’80s, any immigrant charged and convicted of any crime was deported and could never return legally to the country. How did this get so far out of hand? I don’t think anybody can answer that.


In Part Two Sheriff Jenkins notes that ICE has 34,000 beds available for immigrant removals. They are not filled; there is no urgency.


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