Prioritizing Illegals, ‘Terrorists’ – Part Two
(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 TheTentacle.com style, but the content remains the same.)
Why is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) waiting for criminals to become more serious offenders, violent criminals and prioritizing only aggravated felons for removal?
The current administration won’t answer the question, but one fact really jumps out. Nationwide, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has 34,000 beds available for immigrant alien removals. Under the current priority policy of PEP, they are not filling the beds available for removal.
Why are we not filling the beds? Why prioritize if we’re not meeting our numbers now? Why are we prioritizing when we simply can’t fill the beds we have?
Currently in Maryland, only 200 of the roughly 450 beds available are being utilized on a daily basis. I house detainees at the Frederick County Detention Center. Our numbers are down. They’re down because of this new program.
This is a chilling effect. From a local perspective, it simply does not exist. There has been no decline in reporting of crime in any of our immigrant communities. There are studies from the Bureau of Justice, the Police Executive Research Forum and others that have shown there is no meaningful decline in reporting of crime or in the trust of law enforcement.
As a matter of fact, I get calls from legal immigrant communities, naturalized citizens that go all the way back to Cambodian refugees from the Vietnam era. Some of my biggest supporters in Frederick County are people in these communities who say: “Hey, Sheriff, listen, we’re offended by what’s going on in our community. Thank you for what you’re doing in your agency. Thank you for supporting the law, for enforcing the law, because, listen, is this not a quality-of-life issue?”
Is any community not safer if we take a criminal out of there? I say, yes it is.
Immigration hearings and decisions by judges should be more timely to allow ICE to do its job. Because of distant court hearings, because court dates now are probably in some cases as long as three years out. Illegal immigrants disappear, never show up. We don’t know who they are until there’s an encounter with law enforcement.
Partiality in sentencing in many cases, I know in Maryland, involves a foreign-born offender. He or she receives a much lighter sentence than an American-born offender. Why? The thought process is a shorter sentence, a lesser sentence, with the thought being when they’re released they’re going to be deported. The flaw in that theory is it never happens. So, again, offenders are placed back out on our streets because of the failure to cooperate and communicate.
The other thing, far too many asylum requests are granted to criminals. There are mechanisms in place in immigration courts to grant asylum. Far too many are granted to criminals, particularly gang members. A case in point: a green-card holder had various violent crimes, but because judges are lenient in sentencing, DHS is not able to capture the violent behavior because there was not enough sentencing for removal. The offender was released and committed a murder fairly soon after that.
I went last year to McAllen, Texas, to the border, to see how bad the problem was in the border counties and Border States. It really was an eye-opener. It opens your eyes to see the impact of the hundreds of thousands of people streaming across the borders. Keep in mind the Washington area – D.C., Virginia, Maryland – is only a two-day drive from the border. The very same problems we see in our Border States and border counties, we will very soon become a border state and border county.
The hundreds of thousands of illegals coming across will never see an immigration hearing. They will not be identified until they encounter law enforcement. The illegals are not vetted. We don’t know who they really are. Terrorists coming across our borders? Yes, indeed, they do arrive. We know they are here. We know there are cells in this country, probably in close proximity. In Maryland, there are an additional 5,000 illegal immigrants since the surge last year, most of them unaccompanied children.
Inasmuch as border security is probably going to be the cornerstone of our mission and what we have to accomplish first nationally, I think the second-biggest piece of this is the state and local law enforcement participating, working with ICE on detainers. It just has to be done. And again, this is about keeping America safe. This can be simply done. It is as simple as a state-to-state fugitive detainer. We do them every single day.
The new set of priorities created the current administration basically only goes after violent offenders and aggravated felons. The first apprehension and detainer under our 287 program in Frederick County – an illegal immigrant from El Salvador – actually an absconder who had already been ordered to be removed. He drove through a school zone during a school day, 65 miles per hour, with a blood alcohol content three times the legal limit.
My question is: was this illegal immigrant any less a public safety threat than the gang member, the rapist, the drug trafficker? I think the answer is pretty obvious. If it was my child, I’d consider that a public safety threat. If it’s your child, you would consider that a public safety threat. So again, think about these things. Think about where we are, what we need to do as local law enforcement.
As sheriff I have an obligation. I took an oath. I take that seriously. I think every other sheriffs and (police) chiefs should feel the same way – to hold the laws and the United States Constitution. And I think a part of that duty today has to be our commitment to work with ICE to get these criminals off our streets and out of the country.