Sheriffs on the front lines of the surging illegal immigration crisis are pushing back against pro-sanctuary advocates who claim helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement detain criminals is a budget-buster that also hurts community relations with legal immigrants.
Instead, law enforcement officials urging expansion of the ICE cooperation program dubbed “287(g)” for its section in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act said the agency pays for most of the costs, and legal immigrants are happy to see undocumented immigrants removed from their communities.
Frederick County, Md., Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, whose department is in the controversial program, said it has become a “dirty phrase” but is one that is needed because the crisis is pushing undocumented immigrants deeper into the nation.
“Soon, every county is going to be a border county,” he warned at a community meeting 75 miles south of Washington in rural Culpeper, Va., called by fellow Sheriff Scott H. Jenkins to address the crisis and concerns about 287(g).
Both sheriffs have faced criticism and legal challenges to joining the program to hold undocumented immigrants charged with crimes for ICE deportation. Critics typically claim the program is costly and hurts relations with legal immigrants.
But both sheriffs dismissed the charges. Frederick County’s Jenkins even called it a money saver.
“I face this argument every year, the costs, the costs, the costs,” he said at the community meeting May 29. “Every imaginable cost for the program is paid for by ICE,” he said.
“Over the course of 11 years, it has cost us a total of one-tenth of 1% of our detention center budget,” said the sheriff. “That’s $134,356 to deport 1,671 criminals. So that’s a cost of $80.40 per criminal, to turn that criminal over to ICE and have your county get rid of them so they don’t commit another crime,” he added.
Culpeper Sheriff Jenkins, whose department is just setting up its program to work with ICE, meanwhile dismissed claims it disrupts community relations. He called that charge “insanity,” and said legal immigrants fear those who have entered the country illegally, especially those who are part of MS-13 who move into their neighborhoods.
“We had them committing horrible crimes here,” he said. “That’s a reality those of us in law enforcement deal with every day. We see that we really are a border county,” he added.
The Frederick County sheriff also said that joining the program has reduced “serious crime” for five straight years, while the surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties that do not cooperate with ICE have seen crime rise.
“In effect, what we’ve done is build a wall around Frederick County,” said Jenkins.
Both sheriffs said they understand and are proud that the United States is a beacon for many in the world.
But the Frederick County sheriff added, “I kind of look at this whole situation that America is like a lifeboat to the world. So a lifeboat is only built for so many people, and listen, the whole world wants to be here, there is no doubt about this for all the good things that we can do for everybody, but how long before this country can’t sustain that and we collapse? And so goes the United States, so goes the world.”