Thursday, March 05, 2009

Frederick County Sheriff Speaks to Congress

Sheriff Jenkins defends immigration enforcement at congressional hearing

Originally published March 05, 2009 - Frederick News-Post

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins defended and advocated to expand a program that allows local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws while testifying before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday.

A report released in tandem with the hearing by the Government Accountability Office offered criticisms and suggestions to improve the program, known as a 287(g).

Richard Stana is the director of Homeland Security and Justice issues for the Government Accountability Office. He was also a witness at the hearing.

"We ought to know what we want out of these jurisdictions and this program," Stana said. "The question isn't if it's popular, the question is if it's being put to best use."

In April 2008, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office became the first local agency in the state to participate in the 287(g), which is an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Jenkins told federal lawmakers that the main reason he entered into the program was for national security.

"The bleeding of our borders and the crime associated with it is, in fact, terrorism," he said.
Jenkins said everyone who is arrested and sent to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center is screened for immigration status.

The first undocumented immigrant processed under the Frederick program was arrested on a drunken-driving charge in a school zone during daytime hours, he said.

Since then, 337 undocumented immigrants arrested in the county have been detained by the sheriff's office. Of those, 309 have been placed into removal proceedings.

Some of these include gang members and people arrested on charges of narcotics violations, driving without a license, rape, child abuse and burglary, he said.

In the 10 months since the program has been implemented, Jenkins said he had the proof that it has been an overwhelming success.
Ninety percent of the local population supports 287(g), he said.

Groups including CASA de Maryland, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union have complained about racial and ethnic profiling, the funds needed to run the program and a lack of trust between immigrant communities and local police. Jenkins denied that is happening.
"The cost of doing nothing is enormous," he said.

The other side

Muzaffar A. Chishti, director at the New York University School of Law Office Migration Policy Institute, also testified at the hearing.

He said that the goals of the 287(g) program seemed to have shifted in the past few years from apprehending dangerous fugitives and terrorists to taking in as many undocumented immigrants as possible. Additionally, he said, the program has limited resources.

A coherent immigration strategy does not emanate from the federal level, he said. Consequently, 287(g) programs are likely to advance political mandates at the local level.

Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department said his department sends ICE lists of foreign-born inmates on a weekly basis. He said his department works with ICE on cases that involve serious crimes.

On the other hand, he said ICE has a responsibility to handle other types of immigration violations.

The 287(g) program, he said, could undermine trust and cooperation with immigrant communities.

Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are more likely to be victims of crime than U.S. citizens, he said.

If they do not trust local police, the number of unreported crimes can increase in local communities, he said.

Often, local agencies do not receive adequate funding and resources to implement 287(g) programs, he said.

Additionally, immigration laws are complex and their enforcement by local authorities can distract from the core mission of local police.

Manger used the hypothetical example of having local police enforce federal tax laws to loosely compare the degree of difficulty in enforcing federal immigration laws, both of which, in part, involve civil codes.

He recommended that federal immigration officials secure U.S. borders, remove civil immigration detainers from a national crime database and consult and involve local agencies when they have an immigration initiative that involves local law enforcement.


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Anonymous Ken said...

I just mailed in my membership form after hearing Sheriff Jenkins discussing his Congress visit on WFMD. I haven't fully explored your site yet but some kind of voting record for our state, county and local officials would be a great service to help hold them accountable regarding immigration matters. I hope I can help your effort in some way.

12:44 PM, March 14, 2009  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

I'm not sure who the "HelpSaveMaryland" org is intending to help, I'm assuming not the Hispanic or Black population since you are supporting dear ol' Chuck J. I recently moved to Frederick and have encountered multiple incidents of racism. Before this congressional hearing all you had to do was drive down RT 40 and you'd see 3-4 traffic stops at a time that involved either an African American or Hispanic. Is this sheer coincidence or racial profiliing? It's also interesting that since the hearing began, these "traffic stops" stopped! Chuck says there are no racial complaints, I will walk down my community and go door to door, looking for Hispanics and Blacks and I will ask THEM whether they have any racial discrimination complaints and I'm sure they'll beg to differ!
You should change your name to "Help Save Maryland by Keeping it White" it suits you better.

3:09 PM, April 09, 2009  

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