The release of criminal immigrants awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings is “unacceptable,” according to a sheriffs’ association involved in discussions with the Obama administration about immigration reform.
In a letter this week to Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association — a group of elected sheriffs representing about 80 of the largest counties in the U.S. –expressed dismay at the Obama administration’s release of criminal immigrants awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings.
“As we represent the largest counties across this country, the majority of these convictions must be dealt with by our sheriffs on a daily basis,” the letter read. “Put simply, this is unacceptable. ICE must not only clarify the use of detainers with state and local law enforcement, but it must also enforce the law when it comes to dangerous criminals within our nation’s borders. Until we are able to fully enforce laws on the books and secure our borders, we will not be able yo properly address the 11 million undocumented workers in this country.”
A recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies revealed that last year Immigration and Customs Enforcement released more than 36,000 criminal immigrants, convicted of nearly 88,000 crimes.
The group explained in their letter that some sheriffs have been held liable for ICE immigration detainers, holding criminal immigrants on immigration violations.
“Many of our Sheriffs have already been sued over these detainers, yet ICE has stayed silent on the issue,” they wrote. “The individuals we are holding have been flagged for potential immigration violations, and many, as the statistics indicate from a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies, have extensive criminal histories including violence, sexual assault, drug convictions and kidnappings.”
Major County Sheriffs’ Association President Donny Youngblood, the sheriff of Kern County in California, explained to Breitbart News in a Thursday interview that sheriffs across the country have been struggling with the discord in policies — particularly on the issue of immigration detains — at the local, state and federal levels about how to deal with undocumented immigrants.
Youngblood cited, for example, the recently enacted Trust Act, a California law that limits state and local police from holding immigrants arrested for certain crimes to be turned over to federal immigration officials.
“The federal government and the state governments don’t see eye to eye and when you have conflicting law that causes a big conflict for sheriffs,” he said.
The Major County Sheriffs’ Association’s primary purpose for writing to Johnson, however, was to provide him with its immigration reform principles, along the same lines of what the group offered his predecessor, former DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano.
The association’s six principles include control of the U.S. borders, a biometric entry and exit system, state and local law enforcement access to immigration databases, agency support for updated technology and training, reimbursements for housing illegal immigrant prisoners, and fully funding immigration enforcement efforts.
Youngblood noted that his group recently met with Johnson and President Obama about immigration reform.
“We as sheriffs have to be at the table to help drive that ship, or we’re just going to be at the back following whatever comes down the tube. So we’re encouraged that we’re at the table and that we have input and we hope that they listen, because it really is about protecting our communities,” he said, sounding an optimistic tone about the Obama administration’s receptiveness.
Read the letter:
May 20, 2014
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Department of Homeland Security
On behalf of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association (MCSA), an association of elected sheriffs representing the nation’s largest counties with populations of 500,000 people or more, representing over 100 million Americans, I write you today regarding our association’s position on immigration reform and a recent meeting at the White House on this topic.
As elected officials safeguarding our communities along the border and within the interior of our country, we are well aware of the challenges facing our nation when it comes to immigration and the nearly 11 million undocumented workers in this country. In order to tackle this tough issue, we must first make sure we are able to secure our nation’s borders effectively, while ensuring we are using taxpayer dollars in the most efficient way possible. As an association, we formulated a set of six principles that must be addressed when taking steps to reform immigration in this country, and sent these principles to Secretary Napolitano in a letter last year. We feel the need to reiterate these principles to you, which include:
1) Gain and maintain operational control of all U.S. borders. The need for emerging technology and adequate staffing levels to secure all of America’s borders is a critical first step.
2) Develop a cost effective way to implement a biometric entry/exit system. Knowing who is in the country and if/when they leave is basic. The 9-11 Commission recommended implementation of this system and it remains the only item that has not been addressed.
3) Ensure access to information and intelligence for all state and local law enforcement. State and local law enforcement must have access to the actual number of persons in custody whose immigration status might be in question and their relevant background information. It makes no sense when someone comes into police contact for reasons other than immigration status, that a routine query cannot connect all databases to front line law enforcement officers. Whether it is a traffic stop or booking in the jail, we deserve all available information. How a person’s case relates to immigration law is and will be resolved by laws crafted by you. We believe it is vital to have complete information in order to prevent further crimes and to investigate crimes already committed. A routine query can tell us about felony warrants and outstanding traffic tickets, but does not tell officers if a person is in violation of immigration laws. Officer safety is best served with complete information. Again, your policy will determine disposition of immigration only violations. However, partners share information. Especially, with those officers on the front line charged with protecting our citizenry.
4) Support state and local enforcement with proper training and updated technologies. State and local law enforcement are the first point of contact in situations involving aliens, legal or otherwise. Agencies need to have the ability to properly train and outfit their officers with effective tactics and emerging technologies.
5) Require reimbursement to locals for housing of illegal immigrants. Locals should not bear the cost associated with housing any prisoner that is in this country illegally. This reimbursement needs to cover the stay of an illegal immigrant from the moment they enter a facility until they are released. It is not the fault of locals that federal immigration policy has failed and therefore, the financial burden should not be borne by these agencies.
6) In order to accomplish the above articulated goals it is imperative these efforts be fully funded in the federal budget priorities.
In addition to the above principles, we are very aware of the Administration’s review of deportation policies in this country. At a recent meeting at the White House, we discussed the Secure Communities program and the Administration‘s perspective that a “reboot” is needed for this vital program enhancing information sharing among federal, state, local and tribal partners. While we understand adjustments could be made to strengthen the program, our view is that Secure Communities has been an effective program across our counties of jurisdiction. Many of our Sheriffs participated and invested a lot of money in the 287(g) program, only to have to make changes to move toward a nationwide rollout of the Secure Communities program. Many of our jurisdictions are still dealing with those changes, yet now the Administration wants to “reboot“ the program, which could require even more changes and unnecessary expenditures out of already tight budgets. We should fully implement Secure Communities, make minor changes, and fully support the program before looking at any large- scale changes.
Finally, we are very concerned with the recent rulings across the country holding some of our sheriffs liable for honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. Many of our Sheriffs have already been sued over these detainers, yet ICE has stayed silent on the issue. The individuals we are holding have been flagged for potential immigration violations, and many, as the statistics indicate from a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies, have extensive criminal histories including violence, sexual assault, drug convictions and kidnappings.
The May 2014 report indicates that just in 2013 alone, about 36,000 convicted criminal aliens were released from detention while awaiting the outcomes of deportation proceedings. This included 193 homicide convictions, 426 sexual assault convictions, 1,075 aggravated assault convictions and a staggering 9,187 dangerous drug convictions. As we represent the largest counties across this country, the majority of these convictions must be dealt with by our sheriffs on a daily basis. Put simply, this is unacceptable. ICE must not only clarify the use of detainers with state and local law enforcement, but it must also enforce the law when it comes to dangerous criminals within our nation’s borders. Until we are able to fully enforce laws on the books and secure our borders, we will not be able to properly address the 11 million undocumented workers in this country.
We recognize immigration policy is under your mandate; however, as the highest law enforcement officer in our counties, our mandate and priority is to protect our communities. We implore you to correct the issues listed above that make our job more difficult and the public less secure. We are readily available to discuss these issues and appreciate the opportunity to work collaboratively with you to solve the law enforcement portion as part of your holistic solutions.
President, Major County Sheriffs’ Association
Sheriff-Coroner, Kern County (CA)