Related Publications: Video
Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies
Representative Steve King (R-IA),
Vice Chairman, Immigration Subcommittee, U.S. House of Representatives
Sheriff, Rockingham County, North Carolina
Chief Deputy Sheriff, Pinal County, Arizona
Sheriff, Sioux County, Iowa
Federal News Service
JESSICA VAUGHAN: Good morning and welcome to our panel discussion today. I’m Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies with the Center for Immigration Studies. The center is a research institute. We focus our work on studying the impacts of immigration on American society, especially the economic, fiscal, national security and public safety impact.
And our panel discussion today on the crime problems associated with immigration is co-sponsored by the Congressional Immigration – the House Immigration Reform Caucus, which is a bipartisan group of more than a hundred members of Congress who also examine immigration policy and look for legislative solutions to the immigration problems we have. So thank you for coming and welcome.
The first thing I’d like to do is introduce my co-panelists today. We’re going to be joined by Mr. King from Iowa, Steve King. He’ll be with us shortly, I think. But I’m going to start with the sheriffs. To my left, all the way on my left, we have Sheriff Terry Johnson from Alamance County, North Carolina; and to his right is Sheriff Tracy Carter from Lee County, North Carolina; and Sheriff Rick Oliver from – (he is from ?) Yadkin County, North Carolina; and Chief Deputy Steve Henry from Pinal County, Arizona; Sheriff Sam Page from Rockingham County, North Carolina; and to my right is Sheriff Dan Altena from Sioux County, Iowa; and to his right is Sheriff Alan Jones – excuse me – yes, Alan Jones from Caldwell County, North Carolina; and we also have Graham Atkinson from Surry County, North Carolina; and hopefully we’ll be joined by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins from Frederick County, Maryland, who may be stuck in traffic, I’m not sure. Maybe he can use his flashing lights – (chuckles) – to get by. But anyways, thanks for coming.
A couple of years ago, my colleague Steve Camarota and I at the Center for Immigration Studies decided to look at the issue of immigration and crime. And specifically, a question that we were often asked was, do immigrants commit more crime or less crime than native-born Americans? And we studied this for quite some time using data that’s available mainly from government sources, but also in the academic literature.
And we found no strong evidence one way or the other for the notion that immigrants commit either more or less crime than the American population, but what we did find were that there are significant public safety issues that are associated with illegal immigration in particular.
Illegal immigration today really is a form of organized crime. It’s not a random thing that just happens. It’s controlled by organized groups who control the crossings, transport and ultimately, access to employment, in many cases. And it’s a – it has become a very violent business and is associated often with other criminal activities such as money laundering, ID theft and all kinds of other crimes that go along with it, and needs to be addressed as such, as organized crime, both by the federal agencies that are responsible for enforcing immigration laws and also by local law enforcement agencies who would like to help with this.
And the criminal activity is not confined to the border area or even to traditional immigrant states that have seen a lot of immigration. I started to hear this doing training programs for Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, and I would go out to places like Kalamazoo County, Michigan, expecting to kind of introduce them to, you know, and talk kind of abstractly about illegal immigration and the public safety issues that go along with it, and found that they were already quite well aware and dealing with it on a daily basis – places like Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and so on.
And when you begin to examine the data that is available – and there is a lot more of it that has become available recently, both through ICE and as a result of the implementation of the Secure Communities Program, and also through a number of local law enforcement agencies who are – who have been involved in immigration enforcement for a number of years now and started to track these issues – what you find is that there are some surprising hotspots of crime associated with immigration and illegal immigration in particular.
I’ll just cite some examples for you. Over the last two years, in Gwinett County, Georgia, there have been 7,000 arrests of foreign-born criminals in that county. There are six to eight counties in North Carolina that are making more than a thousand foreign-born arrests every year. Fairfax County, Virginia – in that county, 16 percent of the arrests are foreign-born. Places like Salt Lake County, Utah; Prince William County, Virginia; Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; Franklin County, Ohio; Shelby County, Tennessee; Oklahoma City; several counties in Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina: All of these places are showing significant numbers of foreign-born arrests. And most of these areas are areas of new immigrant settlement. And, in fact, in your packet, you should have – or in the packets that are on the table in the back – a study we recently released noting the record levels of immigration that we have seen in this country and in areas that are not traditionally areas of immigrant settlement.
So – and what – the other thing that you start to notice if you look at this data is that there are also specific crime problems that are closely connected to illegal immigration. Most of the growth in the street gang activity is due mainly to the emergence of gangs that largely recruit illegal aliens and the children of illegal aliens. And there should be, again, a map in your packets based on ICE data from the program Operation Community Shield, where ICE SAC offices worked directly with local law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle foreign transnational gangs in the United States, in communities. And you’ll see these communities are all over the country.
There is a disproportionate number of noncitizens who are sentenced from drug crimes at the federal level if you look at the data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. There is a huge concern now about the degree to which Mexican drug cartels have been able to establish drug distribution networks throughout the country. More than 200 cities around the country have documented cartel-related drug trafficking activity. And this is not just spillover incidents or isolated incidents but a real infestation that has occurred and allowed these criminal organizations to gain a foothold here. And they’re well organized, well financed and very sophisticated, and established to the extent that it’s going to take partnerships between local and federal agencies to deal with it.
And then there are also, of course, the problems of ID theft, unlicensed and uninsured driving, negligent driving and those kinds of incidents that are occurring in communities all over the country.
So the problem now, though, is that – and – well, these problems are not new to local law enforcement agencies; we’ve also found that local law enforcement agencies are, in fact, very willing partners and want to work cooperatively with the federal agencies that are responsible for immigration law enforcement, not just to help operationally but also to devote their own personnel and resources to this mission, to address the crime problems that are associated with immigration. And they find that it benefits everyone in the community that they are charged with protecting, and doesn’t have any impact on community policing or other initiatives that they’re undertaking at the local level.
We’ve also observed, finally, some concerns in recent years over what many will characterize as kind of mixed messages that are being sent in connection with immigration law enforcement. They welcome the establishment of the Secure Communities Program, although many have been frustrated with the pace of its deployment. Most law enforcement agencies are very eager to get it, but ICE has been slow at implementing it in places like Massachusetts, Illinois and New York, which are all, you know, very significant populations of criminal aliens, causing very noticeable problems in the communities.
And while the total of Department of Homeland Security removals has, in fact, gone up in the last couple of years and is being reported that way, these are removals that are the results of arrests made by both Customs and Borders Protections and ICE, totaling nearly 400,000 over the last couple of years. And DHS has made a big point of getting that message out, that the removal numbers are up for DHS.
In fact, the number of arrests that ICE is making has declined over the last couple of years by about 20 percent. Those are the arrests that ICE agents make in the interior of the United States as distinct from removals. It’s gone down from about – it was a hundred thousand, 2006, 2007, down now to about 53,600 in 2010. So that’s a significant decline. And ICE has become more surgical and focusing its priorities significantly, and many in the law enforcement community feel that this has an impact on their ability to keep their citizens and residents adequately protected.
So I’m going to stop now, just having given you the – given you that background. And I’d like to have Sheriff Sam Page speak next, from Rockingham County, to my left. His county is located in Western North Carolina and he’s going to talk about some of the public safety issues that he’s been experiencing in his county recently. So thank you, Sheriff.
SHERIFF SAM PAGE: Thank you, Jessica. And I would like to, again, reiterate and thank everyone from the Center for Immigration Studies for working with us today. I’d also like to thank Mida (Group ?) (ph) and also all of my fellow sheriffs that came here today because we all make sacrifices to come to Washington, but we represent – we’re a few of 3,080 sheriffs across America. We also, as American sheriffs, we represent the people at the local level. So we come to Washington – when the sheriffs come to Washington, there’s an issue.
I have some concerns, and that’s why we asked to form this meeting – this panel to come together. And I must start at the border. I have a concern because I have been to the border. I have worked with the authorities down there. As a sheriff in North Carolina, yes, I travel to the border. And I see that it’s porous, and I see that if we’re only stopping 5 percent of the drugs and all the other bad things that are coming across the border, we need to pick it up. We need to dedicate – we need to dedicate resources – dedicate resources for that purpose. But we do have open and very unsecure borders, and that’s where we tie in with North Carolina.
I spent the past year as the president of North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association talking with members of the association and trying to explain to them what the connection is with my friends from Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. And do you realize that same (load ?) that I have pictures of, Sheriff Johnson from Alamance County, North Carolina, just east to me – or Hyde (ph) County – you know, we’re the – we’re the good roads highway, and everybody uses them, including the Mexican drug cartel.
But my point is this: If we can dedicate our resources and slow it and stop it at the border, we can cut a lot of our problems. For 30-plus years, I’ve been fighting the war on drugs as a law enforcement officer, and the past 12 ½ years as sheriff of Rockingham County, North Carolina, working with all my other partner sheriffs. Again, we’ve got to work towards slowing it and stopping it at the border, but we’ve got to dedicate the resources to do that.
And the members of Congress that are here, or your representatives from the congressmen that are here – and congressladies that are here, you need to take the message back. I think you know the solution, but we’ve just got to get dedicated and proactive on the approach and start moving forward.
I am concerned about the drug cartel activity in my county, in Rockingham County, and also across North Carolina, because we are impacted. We’re seeing more persons who are taking down with drugs in our communities. We’re taking down more poundage over the past few years. In my county, in my district, when you can take down a few millions dollars in a few months, that’s a lot of activity. We didn’t see that 10 years ago. What I tell my deputies is, the problem that you’re seeing at the borders, and you think it’s coming, it’s already here.
I am concerned about criminal illegal aliens within my community that commit crimes. I know there is a prioritization of criminal – I mean, excuse, there’s a prioritization of criminal offenses that ICE looks at. But in my county alone in the past year, we’ve arrested 42 people, and 90 percent of these people were arrested for driving while impaired offenses. But because we have Secure Communities, which is an excellent program, it helps us to better identify who we have in our jails and who we are releasing – possibly releasing out into our communities.
That said, I don’t consider a drunk driver a lesser offense. I got hit by a drunk driver as a patrol officer in 1984; never forgot it. I survived. In Massachusetts, a month or so ago, a young man got ran down (on ?) his motorcycle by a person that was a drunk driver. He also happened to be a criminal, illegal alien, living in the United States, and my understanding, this was not his first interaction with law enforcement. Had the state, had the county had a Secure Communities, they might have been able to prevent that loss of life in Massachusetts.
But back to North Carolina. I do have a prepared statement. And I’d like to read this, and I’ll try to read it as quick as I can, but I think you need to hear this, and I’m going to go ahead and move on. Thank you.
As I stated, I’ve worked in law enforcement over 30 years and represent – we represent 3,080 sheriffs across America.
As of August 2011, I currently sit on the National Sheriffs’ Association Immigration and Border Security Committee for the second year, and I would encourage each member of Congress and our representatives to look at the border security immigration law position statement that we have passed as of June of 2011 with the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Sheriffs across America, we have all had basically the same responsibilities. And so when you talk to a sheriff in Iowa or Maryland or California, we’re all doing similar jobs.
Last year, the state of Arizona passed bill SB 1070 in an effort to provide support to the local law enforcement officers in an area of illegal immigration’s enforcement. At this time, as you know, they’re tied up in federal court. I think Alabama also just passed a law. The state of North Carolina attempted to pass laws dealing with illegal criminal – illegal aliens in North Carolina; that has not passed as of yet.
We are a nation of immigrants, and there should be a clear understanding of and a process to the legal immigration system not only for those who wish to make the United States their chosen home legally but also for us, in federal, state and local officers, that have to enforce the laws. We have to have a better, clearer understanding of what we’re supposed to do. And we need the support of the people with ICE and other organizations that train us.
As I’ve stated earlier, I’ve served in law enforcement past 30 years; I’ve watched the drug wars and illegal immigration’s debates in Washington and across the country. And I know that this is very frustrating, though, these pressing issues.
But in my research, I look and I’ve seen that more than 35(,000) to 40,000 persons, Mexican citizens, have died just south of our border due to the Mexican drug cartel members, under President Calderon, since 2006. These are elected officials, innocent victims, police officers, police chiefs. One of our own U.S. border patrol agents, Terry, Brian Terry, was killed last year by drug cartel-related members, in the United States, 18 miles north of the border.
These sheriffs along the border that I’ve spoken with are concerned about spillover violence from illegal drug activity coming into the United States. And as I’ve stated, I’m concerned once it gets beyond the border, because in two to three days, it’s in North Carolina. It’s in Rockingham County.
I’m sure that you’ve heard a lot of people say, that’s just happening at the border. And like I said, it doesn’t take time for what’s at the border to come to where we’re at. But you got to remember: Our borders are America’s backyard. So if we do a better job to protect our backyard, we’re going to be safer all around.
I don’t see the Mexican drug cartel as a gang. I see them as a terrorist organization. And business seems to be good in our communities because I see a lot of activity. This activity lets me know that the drug trafficking organizations are very active in North Carolina, and what’s brewing just south of our border is a drug war. And according to the DEA briefings, North Carolina, as I’ve stated earlier, is second to the Atlanta region in trafficking drugs on the East Coast.
In 2010 of August, I went – took on a project: I went to Arizona to see for myself what was going on along the Mexican border in Pinal and Cochise County in Arizona. I went to ground zero to see it for myself.
It would appear that the best way to combat the drug trafficking border issues would be to stop at the borders by beefing up our resources. Last year, we dedicated 1,200 National Guardsmen to that area to cover a 1,900-mile border. That seems to be very lacking and inadequate to cover that mission.
Taking into consideration the laws governing federal troops and civilian law enforcement, there should be a way to incorporate and increase the presence of U.S. military along our borders. We provide military support for so many countries around the world, but we’re so openly hesitant to protect our own interests and our own borders here in the United States. That’s why I think we all need to look at our national security and how we handle that along our borders more serious.
Three or four years ago, North Carolina sheriffs came together and started working on a criminal illegal alien project working with ICE 287(g). We have five or six – five or six sheriffs in North Carolina that participate in 287(g) process program, and we also have, right now, as of March, 100 counties in North Carolina – all 100 counties, 100 percent – operating with Secure Communities. So – (inaudible) – better track who’s in our jails and who we’re releasing out to our communities.
Last night, my fellow sheriffs and I attended an informal meeting with ICE officials to discuss three basic questions, concerns we have as sheriffs about criminal illegal alien activity in our counties, questions that sheriffs have about ICE immigration enforcement priorities, like I talked about just a minute ago, with a different level of crime priorities, and way the sheriffs and ICE can be more supportive of each other in a pursuit of common goals, including public safety and homeland security.
We come before you today representing sheriffs across America, not just from the U.S.-Mexican border area but from several areas. Every sheriff association, president, executive director, was notified about this meeting – (inaudible, background noise) – Washington – fly in because they feel it’s that important for us to come to Washington to make you aware of our concerns.
Many of the sheriffs contacted had conflicts. We understand that because it was a short notice. But the thing is, I appreciate everyone who was here. I’d like to personally thank the sheriffs who were able to make this journey to Washington. I would like to thank all the representatives from Congress and their represents (ph) to hear what we have to say.
Again, we come for you today in a nonpartisan effort to inform you of issues we face at the local level in law enforcement because, like I said earlier, sheriffs are law enforcement at the local level. And when we come to Washington, from our communities to you, we have a concern.
Again, I’d like to thank you. I’m going to cut it off right here because could I speak a long time. But I would like to thank you all for being here. And Jessica, (if ?) we can turn back over.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you, Sheriff Page.
Next, I’d like to introduce Mr. Steve King, representative in the U.S. House from Iowa, western Iowa.
Mr. King is on the House Judiciary Committee and vice chairman of the House Immigration Policy and Enforcement Committee and has been involved in the immigration issue for many years, again, looking for solutions to the problem of illegal immigration. Mr. King?
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING (R-IA) : Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you organizing this, I appreciate being here and I appreciate sitting on the panel with the people that are on the front lines, and including my own constituent here, Dan, who is one of the members of front lines.
I just – I wanted to first address the subject matter and the nation of immigrants. Yes, we are. And often it’s used to guilt us into walking away from enforcement of the rule of law. (Clears throat.) Excuse me.
Some time back, I was sitting in Germany with German policymakers, and I said, what’s your policy towards indigenous people in Germany? And they looked at each other and they said, we are the indigenous people. And, well then, why is your language a derivative of Latin? The Roman walls are there in Germany. (They’re ?) sure that country is a nation of immigrants. And if you look around the world, what’s the hardest argument to make – maybe Japan as not being a nation of immigrants, isolated island with a homogeneous population, but rooted back in two different language forms that come, they believe, from two different areas of Polynesian Islands that had drifted over there and established a foundation in Japan. So look around the world: Every nation is a nation of immigrants.
And we should be very proud that we’re the only nation of immigrants where you can actually become an American or become the nationality of the – of the host country. You can go anywhere in the world and try to become a Dutch or a Norwegian, but you can never become Dutch or Norwegian, but you can become an American.
And so we should be proud of that and we should lay down these parameters of, why are – why are 50 million people lined up in their home countries to get into the United States legally – 50 million people in all the lines for all the visa categories all together? And it’s because we’re the unchallenged greatest nation in the world. It’s because of the pillars of American exceptionalism, including the rule of law.
And that, I think, is the core of what we’re talking about here, is how we preserve, protect, and now, in this case, because of the erosion of rule of law, we have to expand the rule of law and back into the immigration policy. And that’s where you all put on the uniform every day and put your lives on the line every day for the rule of law. And I grew up in a law enforcement family where they made certain that I respected that in all the forms that possibly could be explained to me.
So I would say this, that whatever our hearts say in this specious argument about how there’s work that Americans won’t do, that’s always been baloney. There’s – you’ve never been able to find a single job in the country that wasn’t being done by Americans. And, in fact, I’ve asked my staff, and they’re not as enthusiastic as I am, go around with a video camera and let’s do a video of Americans doing work that Americans won’t do. You don’t have to go very far. Right outside the walls of this building, you can get a video of the work of Americans doing work that Americans won’t do and you could go all across this country and do that. So that’s another false and specious argument.
But it isn’t just the workforce – which, by the way, when you look at the data, today we have 14 million unemployed in this country.
And we are bringing in – if you look back over the 10 years prior to the 2008 downward spiral, and do the data – the jobs created by an economy that was functioning and working and growing were 100 percent consumed by the legal immigrants that we brought into this country. Almost job-for-job, legal immigrants coming in took the new jobs created by a growing economy. Now we’ve got a declining economy.
We haven’t even raised the subject matter of what we do about the overflow of legal immigrants coming into America that are creating more and more people in the – they’re of working age, they presumably have skills – that are not in the workforce. For example, if you go to the Department of Labor’s website and you look at the data there, Americans not in the workforce – and you have to add them up in the categories by age, because they don’t give you the total – but it comes to this.
For the first time in the history of this country, when you add 14 million unemployed to the numbers of those Americans of working age who are simply not in the workforce – retired homemakers, on welfare, for example, or maybe working in the black market – that number, about three months ago, surpassed 100 million Americans of working age simply not in the workforce.
And when you think about that, 100 million – if we had to mobilize this country, and we needed to do 100 percent mobilization, like, say, we did in World War II, we’ve got 100 million American workers that we could tap to put into the workforce. You can’t convince me that we have to import that labor in order to supply that.
And so then we look at our southern border, and we think, well, most of this is a benign population that flows across here. Well, it’s not. It increases the unemployment in this country. It increases those people that are on one of our – one or more of our 72 different means-tested welfare programs. That suppresses our economy, and more people that are working – the people that are working have to work harder and longer in order to carry the load for those who are not.
You remember that “no work, no eat”? That’s in the New Testament, and that was John Smith establishing the settlement on this continent. So we need more people pulling on the oars, and less people up in the steerage asking for somebody to come and serve them.
But even if all that could be scrubbed away, and even if it was OK to have 100 million people that are not pulling on the oars, and even if we really needed to stop off at this island and load on some more people to pull on our oars, we still have the drug wars – where DEA will tell you that 80 to 90 percent of the illegal drugs consumed in America come from or through Mexico.
And that is a huge problem. I can’t get DEA to give me a number on what that – what that cost is to the U.S. economy, let alone our U.S. society and the pain and suffering, but a FOX News report – it’s a $40 billion-a-year industry. Now, I don’t know where they got that number, but if they got it from the DEA, then the DEA’s holding out on me, because they won’t give me the number.
Forty billion dollars, 80 to 90 percent of the illegal drugs, probably pretty close to 100 percent of the 40 or more thousand deaths in Mexico that we just heard about, related to that drug market – so I’ll suggest that the first and most important thing we need to do is operational control of the border, seal the border. Yes, we can do it. And I don’t argue we build 2,000 miles of fence – not all of it. My position is, just build it until they stop going around the end.
Now, if there’s a track around the end, build another mile. I guarantee you there’ll be a track around the end of that – for a while, until they find an easier way. I just looked at this, and I thought, you know, we’re spending – no one’s done these numbers either, by the way, except my diligent, hardworking staff, who added up our investment in the 50-mile zone next to the border. And that comes to this: $12 billion spent protecting our southern border. That’s $6 million a mile.
Now, if Janet Napolitano came to me and said, I’m going to give you a 10-year contract and $6 million a mile for the mile of your house – mile west of my house, Dan – and I’d look at that and say, I’ve got a $60-million contract. Do I want to hire a lot of people and eventually be paying pension plans and benefit packages and buying Humvees? I would do some of that.
But I would just build the structures that it takes so that I could use that boots-on-the-ground resource more effectively. And I’d use the technology more effectively, and yes, I’d use some drones on top of all of that. That’s sealing the border.
Then, local law enforcement. I’m watching here as this Eric Holder administration and Janet Napolitano administration are trying to tell all of you that you don’t have the right, duty, or responsibility to help enforce federal immigration law. What other federal law would you be excluded from enforcing? I can think of none.
And I look at the federal case law that’s out there. Everything that I put my finger on supports the implicit, the implied authority of local law enforcement to enforce all federal immigration – all federal laws, including immigration. So when Eric Holder went before the immigration committee, and he said – and I asked him point-blank, you’re going to sue Arizona? Well, yeah. And did you make up your own mind? I think the president ordered you to do that. He didn’t rebut that when I made that charge.
And I asked him specifically, where has Arizona’s SB 1070 violated the Constitution? Couldn’t answer it. What federal statute might it have gone – as far as the supremacy clause is concerned – did it surpass? Couldn’t answer. What case law would direct this, would give you a foundation to sue Arizona? Couldn’t answer that.
So they created this new theory called the – let’s say, the careful balance theory – which is that somehow Congress has said to the executive branch, ignore your oath to the Constitution, and create and establish and maintain this careful balance – this careful balance between all the various immigration laws that are out there. Because State Department’s got an interest; Homeland Security’s got an interest; maybe Justice has an interest.
Congress never established a careful balance theory. There’s nothing out there in the language, in the legislation, or in the dialogue that says, go enforce these laws at your discretion and not enforce them at your discretion. So Holder has the audacity – and Janet Napolitano included – to do administrative amnesty.
They say they don’t have the resources to enforce immigration law, so they take 300,000 illegal immigrants who have been adjudicated for deportation, and not yet received their final deportation order, and they’ve got the manpower to pour through every single file and try to find as many as possible that they can say, we’re going to give you a pass to stay in America.
This is a violation of their oath of office. It is thumbing the nose at the rule of law. It breaks down an essential pillar of American exceptionalism, rule of law. And when I write it, I capitalize it so people know that.
And then I’m just going to quickly touch a couple more subject matters. Anchor babies, you know what that is. It’s birth tourism. And for $30,000, you can fly from Beijing to San Francisco, have your baby, go back to Beijing with a birth certificate and a little footprint on it, and now that’s a conduit to bring in two, three or more hundred of your extended family members over a period of time.
E-Verify is a good thing. It works. And there’s still the rumor out there that’s its low efficiency. It’s very high efficiency. It’s very close to 100 percent. And you get it to 100 percent by using it.
And then the final thought I want to offer here – second to the final thought, excuse me – the actual – yes, the second to the final thought I want to offer here right now is this: I have this study that it took about two and a half years to get: criminal alien statistics. It’s dated March of 2011. It’s a GAO study. And in it is a lot of data that will tell you what’s going on here with illegal immigration in the country – SCAAP funding, the percentages of our federal prison now, I believe, is 27 percent are criminal aliens. There’s a number in here also I couldn’t find this morning, but it stuck in my head: 25,017 homicide arrests of criminal aliens.
That means a minimum of 25,000 – at least I think it does – a minimum of 25,017 dead Americans, buried in graves, all scattered across this country, not coming back in flag-draped coffins, not celebrated, you know, in a way, for their heroism, grieved by their families. And that is a price that we have paid by the thousands that’s not been tabulated in this cost of illegal immigration.
Last thing is New IDEA. The New IDEA Act brings the IRS into the enforcement process, and I’ll be introducing it again in this Congress sometime in the next few weeks. What it does is it says that you’re not going to be deducting wages and benefits from your – as a business expense – so those paid to illegals go over into the profits side, where the IRS, then, will put taxes, interest and penalty on that.
It turns your $10-an-hour illegal into a $16-an-hour illegal. It makes the IRS part of the enforcement mechanism. And it says to the employer, you can clean up your act, because one day the IRS will show up and help you. Do it on your own. So you get a lot of good voluntary employer enforcement of cleaning up their workforce.
That’s kind of a big-picture shot at what the sheriffs are looking at here, as far as the force of all this is concerned. And we need to support them all for what they do. They know what’s going on locally. Thanks for having this today, and I want to hear as much as I can from the other panelists.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you, Mr. King. Now I’d like to turn the program over to Chief Deputy Steve Henry from Pinal County, Arizona – not a border county, but just above.
CHIEF DEPUTY STEVE HENRY: Good morning. No, not a border county. Good morning, I’m Steve Henry, Chief Deputy, Pinal County, Arizona, and I’m here on behalf of Sheriff Paul Babeu. Many of you probably know who he is. And we do have a few things to say about this, because we live and breathe this every day.
Pinal County, for those of you that – for a small geography lesson – is located about 70 miles north of the United States-Mexican border. And the only thing separating the southern country line and Mexico is an Indian reservation. There’s not a whole lot going on down there except for smuggling. And of course, we don’t have any law-enforcement powers, normally, on an Indian reservation, unless you’re a nontribal member.
Fortunately, the smugglers are nontribal members, so we can do enforcement there. It’s not very well – it’s not very popular with the Indian tribe, but we still do it. Essentially, what we do every day is actually in combat to what the federal government seems to view as something that’s very innocuous and unimportant. For us, national security and sovereignty is important, and that’s why we’re involved in this each and every day.
And this has a direct effect on the citizens that not just live in Pinal County, not just live in Arizona but live throughout this country. You know, as the sheriff said earlier, what happens in Mexico or Arizona on Monday happens in his county on Thursday. It’s very, very true.
You know, it’s not hard to go from the United States-Mexican border at the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, move up to I-8 – which is in Arizona, which is in my county – slip over to I-10, and then from I-10, go to the East Coast. Or slip up on I-17, another 35 miles, and get on I-40 and move to the East Coast and everywhere else in between. It happens every day.
Essentially, when I – when I speak about sovereignty and national security issues, it’s for a reason, because under the Department of Defense definition of terrorism, the drug cartels are terrorists. And so in our backyard, our number-one trading partner in America – our number-two trading partner in Arizona – is Mexico. And we have terrorists in our backyard that operate with impunity each and every day, to the demise of Americans, to the demise of their own country, and to the demise of their own sovereignty in Mexico.
And that has a direct effect – a chilling direct effect – each and every day in Arizona, each and every day in America as a whole. You know, we go to Libya. We go to Afghanistan. We go to Pakistan. And we, for lack of a better word, we punish the terrorist organizations, because we are at war with terrorism. And as the president said before, there are no boundaries on terrorism. Well, it’s in our backyard, and we’re doing nothing about it at the federal level. We really aren’t.
I mean, it’s piecemeal. I’m not saying that we’re not doing exactly nothing. I mean, boots on the ground is fantastic. I mean, we have a great relationship with the Border Patrol, a great relationship with ICE, HSI. But when you get into the leadership aspect of those organizations, it’s almost “see no evil, hear no evil.” But the people on the ground do understand.
My deputies go out each and every day. It’s like sending them to Iraq or Afghanistan. They have to wear heavy body armor. They have to wear helmets. They have to wear night vision. The enemy operates at night. And we all know that, and so that’s the way we operate as well. We’re outgunned; we’re outmanned. They have the same technology that we do. They have encrypted radios.
They have solar chargers for their radios on top of lookouts. We have over 100 lookout positions in the United States that are manned by armed criminals from another country. That’s a sovereignty issue. That’s a national security issue in our own country. And if you don’t believe me, come down and visit me. I’ll take you to them. I’ll show you. I myself go out and work these missions with my deputies.
You know, we’ll come out of a helicopter, we’ll swoop out of the sky, we’ll land at an LP, and five or six guys dressed in BDUs will take off with AK-47s and run down the mountain from us. And we have to clear those things tactically. We can’t chase these people through the desert. We don’t have the manpower or the air assets to do it, most of the time. So we still have to clear the cave, or clear the OP, or whatever we’re doing at that moment.
And you can’t chase those people. And then when we do chase them, the probability of getting in a gunfight is quite huge. And I don’t know about you, but the idea of facing off with two or three guys that have nothing to lose – because if they go back home after they’ve been arrested, they’re probably going to get killed anyway, as you’ve probably all seen on the internet – I guess the wonderful thing and the bad thing about technology is, everything’s on it.
The narco-cartels own their own blogs. They own their own URLs. You can go and do the research yourself, and see what they’re doing to their own people. If you want to talk to me afterwards, I’ll give you the web pages. It’s disgusting. It’s tragic, and it’s crimes against humanity. And it happens each and every day.
And you know, if you don’t think this is spilled over into America, you’re wrong. Chandler, Arizona, last year – a beheading directly related to narcoterrorism. And it was a hit, because someone snitched, or whatever it was.
So what’s going on in Mexico is going on in America. You know, you have 40,000-plus people that are murdered in Mexico, directly related to the drug war that the Mexican government’s conducting right now. I would tell you that that 40,000 people is an inaccurate number. That’s just 40,000 have been reported or found. I bet you there’s another 85 to 100,000 people behind that – they just haven’t produced the bodies yet.
Let’s talk about some numbers on the American side. According to the United States Border Patrol, just in the Tucson sector alone – which is in Arizona, and there’s many sectors on the border – last year they apprehended about 200,000-and-change people coming across the border, just in that sector. They admit, or tell us, that it’s only one-third of the people that came across the border. So we’re only getting one out of three.
Who’s crossing the border that we don’t know? I mean, just the other night on TV, they came out and said – the Border Patrol came out and said that there was over 300 illegal aliens apprehended last year that were from nations of interest. And those are nations that have direct terrorist ties. That’s Hamas, Hezbollah, and all those other organizations. They’re coming up south, through South America, from the tri-border area.
We know that. That’s good, hard, vetted intelligence that our government has. So if we’re only catching one out of three and the other two are getting across, how many of those are members of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the other organizations like that, who have nothing in their sights but destroying America? This is a national security issue.
So if we – we’re talking about doing something – control the border. I mean, a great start is the Kyl-McCain 10-point border plan. It’s a great start. Is it the only answer? No. A silver bullet? No, but we have to start someplace. We have to control the border. And then we can start on the interior and work out.
And that’s really, truly the issue. That’s the bottom line, control the border. We’ve been able to do it in the Yuma sector, where people being arrested is down to less than – a 90-percent reduction over three years. We have the ability to do it. We’ve already proven we can do it, so let’s just do it on the rest of the border.
And finally, if you – you know, pictures speak a thousand words – if you want pictures of what we’re doing, leave me your email address and I will send you hundreds of pictures of what’s going on in Arizona. Hundreds, and some of them will turn your stomach.
And finally, for those of you that are staffers, talk to your bosses, please. And relay the message that HR 1270 is important, HR 100’s important, 2000 and 1459. Those are all very, very important to securing our country. And thank you.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you, Chief. What you said about drug cartels as terrorists, I think, would probably be evident to everyone just reading this morning’s paper, where a story broke about an Iranian-born U.S. citizen who tried to contract with what he thought was a Mexican drug cartel to carry out an assassination, here in Washington, of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.
And I’ll just put in a quick plug here. For those of you who would like to see what it’s like in Arizona at the border, the center is sponsoring a trip to Arizona in February. And information is on our website. So thank you. Sheriff Altena is here to give us some insight into what he’s experiencing in Sioux County, Iowa.
Sheriff DAN ALTENA: Thank you. By the way, I think February is a good time to go to Arizona. That’s when half of our state leaves to go there. And one other chuckle I had, when Jessica mentioned being stuck in traffic – in my county, where I come from, being stuck in traffic means being behind a wagon of two loads of corn, and you can’t get around them. So that’s kind of the area I come from.
I am from Iowa, from northwest Iowa, and our country is primarily agriculturally-based. We have a lot of pork and beef producers, packing plants. We have dairy, poultry operations. And you’re probably wondering, you know, what is somebody who is not a border county doing here to speak on immigration? And at first, I questioned whether or not I should come on this trip. But then talking to my county attorney, because we work together on this quite a bit, I did feel like it was important for you to hear what’s going on in our county.
We’re not a big county – 33,000 people – but we are right in the middle of the United States, and it’s important for you to know a little bit what’s going on even there. And as Jessica asked me to give a little presentation this morning, I said, well, you realize we don’t have, you know, some of the Pinal County stuff that happens.
But I think it’s important that you hear what we have. One of the issues that we have going on over there, in our county, is just the lack of knowing who the people are. When our officers stop a vehicle, they often times have no documentation – the illegal immigrants – and that’s very problematic for us. If you all remember the Oklahoma City bombing, the perpetrator of that act, McVeigh, was stopped by a traffic violation.
So if somebody is saying, well, you know, all you have is a traffic violator there and you can’t identify, that’s not a big issue, for us it is in law enforcement. We have arrested some of those folks and have found out later that they’ve been murder suspects in other states. They’ve been wanted. They’ve been sex offenders. So that kind of issue is very important to us.
We’re starting to see the influx of gangs in our communities. Where I come from, a gang used to be the local football team on a Friday night and their girlfriends hanging around on a street corner. That’s different now. We’re seeing the drug influx come into our – into our countries. We’re seeing more violent crime.
Again, my county – I don’t want to paint it – we actually have a sheriff from Mayberry, and it’s the original Mayberry in his county – but I don’t want to paint it as that kind of community. We generally have been a very safe county for folks. There’s a lot of folks in our county, believe it or not, that will go on vacation for two to three weeks, leave their houses unlocked. A lot of people still go uptown with their keys in their car, in the ignition. And that is changing over the years.
We’ve had a number of stabbings. About four or five years ago, we had a triple homicide shooting. And it took us half the day to even identify who the victims were. Even family members who had been living with some of these illegal immigrants did not know who they were, because – identity situations.
Oh, one of the things – I believe it was Congressman King mentioned, or somebody mentioned up here this morning, about guilt. That’s a thing that has really bothered me as sheriff. I’ve had in my county – because of some of the deportations going on, we have had a number of the businesses upset because a lot of their employees were leaving – the ones that were deported, and then ones that became fearful and left.
And there were about 200 people that got together a meeting and came to our board of supervisors to put pressure on them, saying the sheriff and the sheriff’s office, and the county attorney, were racially profiling, were racists. And that one really bothered me. I’m a parent of seven children. Four of those children are adopted internationally from three different countries. That one bothered me. I have different races within my own home.
I’ve paid a lot of my own money to go through the immigration process, to bring them into my home. It is not about race. As Congressman King says, it’s rule of law. My job as a sheriff is to protect my community.
If I have somebody in my community that is not supposed to be there, legally, and – as this group has wanted me to do – I just write them a ticket because they say their name is so-and-so – OK, I write them a ticket, let them go. If, a week later, they’re in just a basic traffic accident – not even a drunk driving accident, but they’re in a traffic accident and they end up killing somebody – I believe that’s on my shoulders. That’s my fault. Because I was supposed to do something about that person that was there illegally.
As far as the border being unsafe, you know, I have a couple of examples of that. We had one young man who was deported five different times. And he came back into our community. One of the local Catholic churches found him as being – a homeless juvenile is what he said.
They brought him to one of our social service agencies, who – one of the employees of that agency took this gentlemen into their home to help him out, only to walk into her daughter’s – her five-year-old daughter’s room later that week – and find him sexually abusing the daughter. He was not a juvenile. He was in his 20s. And he was later convicted of the crime.
Another thing that we have in my community that, maybe, some of the other counties here don’t have so much – we have a lot of identity theft going on. Here’s a typical example of identity theft, one that we had just a couple of weeks ago. We had a Hispanic citizen from Texas, a mother of a disabled daughter, call us. And she said, I used my Social Security check to care for my daughter, and the Social Security agency said I have earned so much money up here in – up there in Iowa.
She said, I’ve never been to Iowa. I don’t know where Iowa is. And as Congressman King can attest, I can imagine people don’t come to our state for the wonderful winters. But in the course of investigation, we found that the – her Social Security number was being used at a pork processing plant in my county by a 15-year-old girl who was an illegal immigrant. Her father also worked in the plant.
Initially, we had nowhere to go with this girl because nobody would take her. ICE wouldn’t take her; our local state juvenile court system wouldn’t take her. And, as the officers know here, we can’t deal with a juvenile. We don’t – in our own jail – we can’t put them in our jail other than for a certain period of time which is about 24 hours. And eventually she admitted to us that her father worked at the plant. He was later arrested. They were both working. He was forcing her to work because they had to pay the amount of money – I believe it was roughly $15,000 – to get brought up into our county.
That kind of thing goes on quite often. We get calls from many other states of their social security number being used in our county. And some of the – some of the people that have argued against me and our agency about what we’re doing – making us feel guilty about being, quote, “racists” – they don’t hear the stories of what the people that suffer identity theft go through – the lack of the ability to get credit. This woman down in Texas who’s taking care of her disabled daughter, she’s going to have all kinds of problems now, and who knows what’s going to happen there. So you’ve got a – you’ve got a disabled girl, young girl, who’s now affected by illegal immigrants.
I don’t – I want to keep mine a little brief here this morning. I don’t have a lot more to say on it. And so if you have questions later you can certainly ask me about it. Thank you.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you, Sheriff Altena. I definitely want to open up to questions and answers from the audience. But I just wanted to see if any of the other sheriffs on our panel would like to say something very briefly before we move to Q&A. Sheriff Jenkins, welcome.
SHERIFF CHARLES JENKINS: Sheriff Charles Jenkins, Frederick County, Maryland. Thank you, Jessica, for having me this morning. I wanted to say thank you to the board; my fellow sheriffs, thank you for what you’re doing. I’m the sheriff of Frederick County, Maryland. I’m not a border sheriff; I’m not a Western-state sheriff. I’m a sheriff that’s your neighbor, one hour – one hour, central Maryland. Can you hear me, sir?
MR. : Go to the mic – (inaudible).
MS. VAUGHAN: We heard you.
SHERIFF JENKINS: OK. I’m one – I’m your neighbor. I’m one hour away, central Maryland, beautiful rural county. But because of the problems that the sheriffs in Arizona are talking about, we suffer those same problems in Frederick County. This is about the rule of law; this is about saving America; this is about public safety and national security. We can’t just – we cannot just fight the battles at the border. Yes, it’s about securing the border but, again, we’re feeling the convergence of all these problems throughout the entire region. And – OK.
We are feeling the same problems and issues. We’re feeling the same drug activity – drug trafficking. You’re seeing major, major quantities of narcotics coming to the East Coast. Frederick County is a corridor for that. We are a convergence of many interstate routes. So the problems that are affecting you are affecting us. And I’ve got your back up in Maryland.
MS. VAUGHAN: Sheriff Johnson?
SHERIFF TERRY JOHNSON: Yes. I’m Sheriff Terry Johnson from Alamance County, North Carolina. And, you know, you’ve sat and listened to the sheriffs on the border talk today. Well, let me tell you, we’re experiencing some of the same level of crime in our county – maybe not at the magnitude. But I have some photographs here that I’ll just show you – give you an example, execution in Alamance County of an illegal immigrant – drug traffic.
And my fellow sheriff here from Lee County, Tracy Carter, we have a lot of our activity – I-40 goes county line to county line in Alamance County and this – we’ve been an agriculture area, a manufacturing area of textiles and a building area. That has attracted a lot of your immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala into Alamance County. Well, what comes with those is your drug cartels. Here is a photograph of weapons seized in Reynosa, Mexico, with – the vehicle there was from Lee County. And a lot of our drugs are back and forth.
We talk about the cartels over in Mexico and what they’re doing. We’ve arrested in the last several months 35 individuals – 95 percent of the major drug traffickers in our county are illegal criminal aliens from Mexico. Of the 35 we arrested just a few months ago, 25 were found to be criminal illegal aliens with – and they possessed 18 weapons. I’m talking about weapons seized just on these individuals in traffic stops or searches.
Nine of them was from the Sinaloa Cartel – in Alamance County. We are a small county – 151,000, 152,000 population. Folks, I’m here to ask for your help. Our citizens are tired of being victimized. I am tired, as a law enforcement officer, representing and protecting those citizens that are being victimized. It is amazing some of the things that’s going on in our nation. And we feel helpless as sheriffs. Am I correct, sheriffs? We feel helpless in a lot of ways.
And that’s why we travel to Washington, D.C. We need your help. We are a nation of immigrants. And I have no problem with any immigrants coming to America. Let’s do it the right way and let’s don’t do it with criminal intent. And I ask for your help. And I beg of you today to take this back to your bosses – the media, take it back to America, because the story is not being told correctly. Thank you.
SHERIFF TRACY CARTER: Sheriff Tracy Carter from Lee County, North Carolina. I am about five hours to your south. If you’re familiar with North Carolina, where Raleigh’s at – I’m about 40 miles south of Raleigh. And I can tell you since ’06, since I’ve been sheriff, we have seized, I don’t know, a little over $20 million worth of illegal drugs. The majority of those drugs came from individuals that we coming to our county illegally.
And I would echo everything that my fellow sheriffs have said today. But I especially want to echo what Chief Henry said about national security. I mean, what else is coming across our border? I mean, I think this is the greatest threat to our nation, and that’s why I’m here today. That’s one of the main reasons I’m here. I’m also here because I feel like I owe it to my county. Thank you.
SHERIFF GRAHAM ATKINSON: Just a few minutes ago the reference was made to the sheriff from Mayberry – that’s me. Surry County, North Carolina is Andy Griffith’s hometown and part of the show was based there. So that’s where that comment comes from. My name is Graham Atkinson; I’m the sheriff in Surry County.
About two years ago one Sunday afternoon I was in Wal-Mart with my son, who at the time was 11 years old – I also had my niece and nephew with me – when my cellphone rang. I was told when I answered the call that less than a mile from where I was standing, at about 40 yards from the parking lot of our major hospital in Surry County, there had been a quadruple homicide.
It turned out that the shooter in that case was a previously deported illegal re-entry, had been deported for sexually abusing a girl. And the assault was committed with an SKS assault rifle. There in the middle of downtown Mt. Airy, 21 shots were fired from that assault rifle including an execution on each of the victims after they were down. The headlines the next morning read: murder in Mayberry.
Since I’ve been sheriff we’ve had – one of our local FBI agents was assisting us with a narcotics investigation. An undercover purchase of methamphetamine was made from a person who had illegally entered the United States and was involved in narcotics trafficking. Shortly after that undercover purchase was made, they approached his house. He came out with a gun; the officers had to shoot him.
Several times that – instances that we can document when we’ve done drug deals, gone to arrest people immediately after the deal or search their homes – there’re assault weapons, there’re handguns, they’re carrying guns with them. And about two weeks ago the high school that I graduated from almost 10 years ago – (laughter) – little longer than that – but my daughter graduated also from that school last year and the school that my son will be attending next year – a 14-year-old was arrested at the school with cocaine there with the intent to sell it, and he also was in the United States illegally.
It’s not just the border counties. It’s not just big cities. We’re having these problems in rural Surry County at 536 square miles, and our latest census said about 73,000 people. The same issues that they’re having on the border in Arizona, we’re having in Mayberry. So it’s something that touches us all over the state and all over the United States.
And, again, like the other sheriffs have said, it’s not just a matter of people coming in illegally; it’s the people that are there for the purpose of engaging in criminal conduct. There are lots of drugs, there are lots of weapons, and it is a national security issue. Thank you all for being here today and please take that message back and tell them that we need help combating this problem.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you, Sheriff Atkinson.
SHERIFF RICK OLIVER: Sheriff Oliver, Yadkin County, North Carolina. I probably represent one of the smallest counties – communities here today. And the reason I bring that up is to tell you that it is a problem that affects us all, regardless of the size of your county. It’s all across the United States. We have approximately 40,000 citizens in our county. And we’re supposed to have about 10 percent immigrant population. But that’s not reflected in our crimes.
Little statistics that I have just to show you how it affects us, 20 – just this past – this year we’ve had 21 percent increase in our drug-related crimes. And that is among our immigrant population; that’s not a(n) overall increase, just in our immigrant population increase. We’ve also had a 24 percent increase in violent crimes among our immigrants. We currently have 38 percent of our un-served warrants – and many of those will never be served because of documentation – identification problems – that we currently are holding are of illegal immigrants.
Detention population – again, about 10 percent of our detention population is that. We have a very small detention facility. We house more people in other jails than we do our own. And that’s costing the citizens and the taxpayers a great deal of money there in our county. And that is just continuing to add to our burden.
We are mostly an agricultural community there as well and we have very limited resources. Just wanted to reiterate the problems that we’re seeing – the increase in the criminal activities, the violent crimes that are increasing among our immigrants and the drug problems. I’ve been in law enforcement for about 34 years now. I only took office as sheriff of this county approximately a year ago. And I’m seeing how much things have changed over that period of time.
When I working drug enforcement in our county several years ago ,the worst problem we had in our high schools was a small bag of marijuana. And now our undercover officers are buying trafficking amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine from high school kids. Things are changing, and it is affecting us all. It’s time we need to wake up and do something about securing our borders and doing more to work with illegal immigrants here in our communities. Thank you.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you. Sheriff Jones?
SHERIFF ALAN JONES: (Off mic) – Carolina. Caldwell County is 452 square miles. It’s beautiful. It’s in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You would look at it and think it’s something you would see right out of a magazine as far as retirement. It’s a community I love and I have for many years. But along with what the other sheriffs have said, it’s also hit Caldwell County as well.
I’m concerned about our citizens and I’m concerned about the safety and the issues that we’re dealing with. And right now the amount of drugs that’s coming in from out of the country into my county it’s – over the last several years I’ve never seen as much come in as it has in the last few months. We have issues there, just like each one of them.
We’ve had homicides that involves illegal immigrants. Right now I have – in my jail I have MS-13 members – didn’t even know what MS-13 was until about a year ago, until where I started seeing more and more. And, yes, we do hold inmates for other counties. But that was a first for me, and when we get to that point, especially in our area, that’s a big concern. And I ask you to go back and tell your representatives to give us the resources – the help we need to keep our communities safe. Again, thank you and I appreciate everyone being here.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you, Sheriff Jones. Now, I’d like to give you all a chance to ask any questions that you might have. And then I would just ask you to identify yourself and pose a question to anybody on the panel. Yes, ma’am?
Q: I’m Penny Star (ph) with U.S. News. And I was hoping someone would address a little more in detail Secure Communities because I think there’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there about it – that it’s mandatory, when in truth it’s the FBI communicating with ICE, which is in the same agency – but more to the point of how it helps you. And there’s critics who say that it’ll damage relationships between the people and law enforcement because, for example, in the case of domestic abuse the woman would be afraid to call because she might be deported.
So I was hoping that you could address that and then talk about how the program works – helps you do your job as well as – (off mic).
CHIEF DEPUTY HENRY: If you don’t mind, I can –
MS. VAUGHAN: Please.
CHIEF DEPUTY HENRY: – address that. Secure Communities is an integral part of what we do – (inaudible) – County, especially in our jail. Our jail is about 1,500 beds, so it’s kind of a small jail. And for those of you that don’t know ,our county is 5,400 square miles, so it’s kind of small as well. But – I’m kidding. But it’s specific to that – (laughter) – but it is that size.
Specific to that, Secure Communities in – what’s built inside of that is, you’re right, it’s – what happens is when someone is put into jail, you know, you do their fingerprints. The fingerprints shoot off to FBI under NCIC. It gets ran through security – Secure Communities, DHS right after that, and then it gets pushed back down to the local level and then they decide – Homeland Security decides what they’re going to do with it – whether they’re going to be held, retained, et cetera, or deported – or put into a deportation proceeding.
When the argument is made that it’s going to reduce the trust between law enforcement and the community, that’s a disingenuous argument. We use it all the time. As a matter of fact, we don’t see any statistics that change anything at all. And the population of Pinal County is about 48 percent Hispanic, is what we serve. We don’t have any issue with it at all.
And specifically for the people that are there illegally and call the police and there’s an involvement with us, if they’re a victim of crime, they’re not ran through the system. There’s a system separate and above that that allows them to get special visas and things like that so that they’re not deported. We don’t even – for example, use your example of domestic violence.
A woman calls, her husband’s beating her. We arrest him. She’s illegal; he’s illegal. He’s ran through the system. We know she’s illegal. We don’t call ICE. That’s not why we’re there. We’re there because of domestic violence. And so it’s just – it’s seamless. It’s just – it’s a non-issue. So I think it’s – you know, there’s politics involved, obviously, but in the reality of things it’s – it doesn’t affect our relationship with the community at all.
MS. VAUGHAN: Sheriff Johnson?
SHERIFF HENRY: Does that answer your question, ma’am?
SHERIFF HENRY: Thank you.
SHERIFF JOHNSON: The Secure Communities program and the 278(g) is the only source we have of identifying those that are in custody of the sheriffs in this nation. We have found – you’d probably – I would say 80 percent of the people that are resident that come through our 278(g) programs were committing other crimes – give the wrong name – you find that they’re wanted in other parts of the country – child molesting, murder, rape, drug trafficking – and it’s the only way that we know who we have in our custody is through these two programs.
And I can tell you the crime rate in Alamance County – the index of crimes has gone down, and I say this – the only thing we are doing different is the 278(g) program which we started in 2007.
MS. VAUGHAN: Anyone else like to – I know – everyone on the panel has Secure Communities except for Sioux County, Iowa. But – Sheriff Jenkins?
SHERIFF JENKINS: Yes, just to echo that. We have both, in Frederick County, 278(g) and Secure Communities. And what is really important is that the public understand – I think there’s a misperception out there – the public needs to understand this mechanism is only after the arrest for another crime. Again, we’re out there enforcing the laws of our respective states. And these processes take place during the booking systems after the arrest. So I think that’s important. We don’t do this on traffic stops.
MS. VAUGHAN: Yes?
Q: I’m Rosemary Jenks with NumbersUSA. I’d like to ask all of you how many of you participate in 278(g) programs, and maybe somebody could explain sort of what 278(g) is, how many of you have been denied participation in 278(g) by ICE and what kind of cooperation you get with – from ICE as part of 287(g) or not as part of 278(g)?
SHERIFF JOHNSON: Well, Alamance County was the second 287(g) program in our state. We now have five. We have a wonderful working relationship with ICE. We have two ICE agents – federal ICE agents – that work in our jail – have offices in our jail and is there 40 hours a week, double-checking everything we do. Currently in the state of North Carolina I think we have five 287(g) programs, with 100 (percent) of the rest of the counties are Secure Communities counties. So our whole state is covered by either 287(g) or Secure Communities.
SHERIFF CARTER: When I first – when I first took office as sheriff, I wanted to do the 287(g) program and applied to do that and was denied because my jail was too small. And I understood that. The main reason I wanted it is for the identification – being able to identify individuals that we arrest so the Secure Communities that we’re doing now has done that for us.
But I want to – I want to tell a little story about when we first started talking about this in Lee County. And we had a forum one night at one of our centers. And we had a large crowd, and there was some folks from the Hispanic community that was there. And we began to talk about what we were trying to do. And after it was over I noticed a group of individuals who happened to be Hispanic were waiting to speak to me.
And they actually thanked me for what we were trying to do because they knew that it would help make their community safer, and it has. So –
MR. : Thank you. Specific to 287(g) – that program’s very, very useful. We operate 278(g) in the jail and we also operate 287(g) in a task force model. For those of you who don’t know that means out on the street – regular deputies. What’s difficult about 287(g), with all of the things that it does do well, is it’s very, very difficult to use. It’s like any other – maybe I’m a little jaded – but it’s like any other federal bureaucracy. It’s difficult to use; it takes a lot of time.
For example, each time that a deputy does a 287(g) investigation on someone it takes up anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours which is time that they are not going their regular job. And I – anecdotally, I don’t know what’s so difficult about asking someone what their nationality is, and they answer you and that’s the end of it. But, no, there’s a lot of hoops and layers that you have to jump through to prove that through 287(g). I’m not knocking the program; it’s a great program. It’s just – it’s difficult to use and I would wish it was streamlined, but it’s not.
As far as being denied 287(g), sometimes 287(g) is a little hard to use and it’s kind of a denial – yes, we do have people that are certified in 287(g) and – does anybody not know what that is? It’s a federal certification to do federal investigations on nationality.
So and – I’m sorry?
CHIEF DEPUTY HENRY: And so, anyway, so you’re certified and credentialed through the Department of Homeland Security even through you’re a local law enforcement agency. It takes five weeks of training to get. For us, we have to go all the way to Glynco, Georgia, to do it. I don’t know why it’s not somewhere closer but it’s not. And – but back to that, yes, it’s useful, but it’s – like anything else – it’s difficult to use. For what reason, I’m not sure.
And back to denial, there’s training issues along with anything else in law enforcement. You have to stay constantly trained and constantly certified, and if funding’s pulled or the program’s being re-managed or re-articulated then no one’s being trained and so then your certifications fall off the table and you have to be recertified or they impose quotas upon you, and you say you have to do so many a month or so many a quarter and that’s very difficult to do. And so it’s got many layers to it. But I mean, overall we’re happy with it. It’s better than nothing.
MS. VAUGHAN: And from what you say and from what I’ve observed also, in speaking with other agencies that use it, the fact that it is not something that can be used very easily makes it much less likely to be used frivolously and without legitimate law enforcement or public safety use. Sheriff Jenkins, you have 287(g) also.
SHERIFF JENKINS: Yes we do. We are actually the first and still the only county in the State of Maryland that participates with ICE and 287(g). And as far as your question about the oversight and supervision – absolutely, everything we need to operate the program effectively ICE does a tremendous job in the supervision. We also have ICE agents that work in our detention facility, like the chief from Pinal County. We have both the task force and the jail models. They are very effective.
And what you really need to understand is that either program – Secure Communities is not as effective as 287(g), but under 287(g) we are an extension or force multiplier for ICE. We have that training. We have that certification. In effect, counties, for instance, where ICE may not have the resources or manpower, under 287 we can perform certain functions.
And again, we do have – we do everything, basically, that ICE does as far as preparing and serving those detainers. So that’s the difference of the two programs. Either one, by themselves, are good. 287 is more effective, but in conjunction, they work absolutely wonderfully.
MS. : (Off mic, inaudible) – asked how many – raise your hand if you have 287(g), those of you who know what it means. Three? And how many have Secure Communities?
MS. : I’m not sure if (Johnson does?).
MS. : And how many have been denied 287(g)?
MS. : I think just – oh, two, OK.
MR. : In 2006, when I was elected sheriff, just shortly after that I applied for the 287(g) program. Was told, as we ended the application process, that I did not have a serious enough problem to qualify for 287(g). To answer your other question about ICE, the local guys that we work with are fantastic. They’re super. They would love to help us more than they do. They simply do not have the resources in place to give us any more help than they do. But they do all that they can for us.
MS. VAUGHAN: Another question? Yes, sir. Bill?
Q: (Off mic, inaudible.) Can anybody here attest about the percentage of people that come across the border that are carrying drugs? And to what extent are they carrying drugs in payment for their opportunity to come here?
SHERIFF HENRY: Well, I can – probably the only one to look at that. A percentage, no, because most of those people refuse to talk to us when they’re caught. And that’s if we catch them.
You have to realize that when you intercept or interdict a load of drugs that are coming up through the desert, it’s usually a string of five to six people, sometimes as many as 12, that are carrying anywhere from 60 to 75 pounds of marijuana apiece, on their back, with a homemade backpack. And they’re carrying a gallon of water in their hand.
They’re escorted by armed guards most of the time, and when they’re interdicted, usually it’s drop the weed and run. And you know, when you’re only interdicting with four or five deputies, you’re outmanned. I mean, you’re chasing ghosts in the desert in the middle of the night.
They have a lot of impetus to get away, because if they’re caught – especially the – the rules have changed with the cartels. You know, once upon a time, you lose your weed load – it wasn’t a huge big deal, because weed wasn’t the cash crop for the cartel. It was the cocaine and the methamphetamine and the heroin. Those used to be throwaway loads, to get us to look at the weed so they could smuggle the other stuff in behind us.
Those have changed. Weed’s a big market right now. And you know, we intercept about 11,000 pounds of weed a month. That’s stuff that we can’t tie to a charge; we can’t charge anybody for it. It’s the stuff that’s dropped, and everybody runs.
Do we find them? Very, very rarely, because they know the desert and they run pretty fast. But when we do catch them and interview them, normally the first thing out of their mouth is, I want my attorney present. So you know what happens after that – nothing, as far as an interview. So we don’t know.
I mean, if it’s for payment – we assume that it is, because many of those people, you know, they’ll tell you where their destination – their final destination is. It’s Chicago. It’s Iowa, it’s Denver, it’s Pittsburgh. So if that’s their final destination, they’re not going to take that weed all the way there. That’s their form of payment to get across the border.
MS. VAUGHAN: Thank you. Yes, there was a question on the aisle. Sir?
Q: For those of you that both have 287(g) and Secure Communities both, DHS has obviously come out with its – I guess it’s a tiered system of who is the highest priority and who is the least priority – (audio break).
MR. : (In progress) – those individuals are re-encountered within a couple months, either back in our county or some other county. At that time, ICE does treat it a little different. You know, talking last night with ICE, I think they have the ability to possibly – the resources to deal with 400,000 a year. I think that’s what they said last night. And I think recently, a figure was released – something like 355,000, or something that they dealt with this past year.
So certainly, they are going to have to look, I think, at what categories they want to really concentrate on. Personally, I think if you’ve crossed the border illegally and then you’ve violated a state law, you should be sent back to your home country. However, I understand their resources are very limited.
MR. : To answer your question, no, we don’t get any pushback, really. Even though the priorities have changed, we are still – again, the cooperation is great. But let me explain one thing to you. You know, I would make the argument, as one of the other sheriffs did, that we’re talking about public safety.
And the first individual that was actually brought in and arrested and turned over to ICE under 287 was an individual who was driving through a school zone, during school hours, twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. So I would argue to you – is that not as critical a public safety issue as someone who is out there robbing, bringing drugs into this country and committing violent crimes?
So not only do they look at the crimes they were arrested for, but they also look at the criminal history of the individual. So each case is specifically different in the decision that ICE makes.
SHERIFF HENRY: And it’s not just an issue of 287(g). A lot of times, when a detainer’s placed on someone and they enter deportation proceedings – a lot of times, it’s similar to what we go through in our system at the local level. You know, you’re let out on bail or you’re let out on your own recognizance with a hearing date in the future. That happens all the time. We call it in through the front door, out through – out the back door. It happens with ICE and their system as well. And a lot of times, people go out and re-offend.
You know, back to the DUI situation, there’s been many instances where – I believe a DUI is just as dangerous is someone walking around with a gun to your head. I’ve investigated way too many of them that were fatalities.
And so the people that are arrested for DUI, and in through the front door and out through the back door – I think that’s wrong, fundamentally. Where that comes from – that’s the prioritization, perhaps, through the Department of Homeland Security. We don’t run that side of the program. But if an immigration commissioner or judge does let that person go on OR, or bail, we don’t have any say over that.
But I can tell you that that’s happened a couple times in my county. And specifically, one was OR-ed – arrested and detained and OR-ed – and had a gunfight with my deputies, you know, a couple months later. So it is an issue. Pushback? Officially, no.
MS. VAUGHAN: I think we have time for one more question. Yes?
Q: (Off mic) – the Center for National Security director, and I thank you all for being here at this event, for holding this. One quick question: We heard a call for help. And Representative King is sitting here. And if each of you could say your definition of help, your number-one priority of what you need right now from the federal government and Congress to really help you get your job done, I think it would help us all walk away with, sort of, a to-do that is – (audio break).
MR. : Border security, two words.
MR. : I’d actually think – homeland security should begin at our borders.
MR. : I agree with that completely. And more funding for ICE to do their job.
MR. : I think border security, and the sheriffs should be able to do their job without getting mixed messages from Washington, D.C.
MR. : I would agree with that. To the border security, it’s going to stop them from coming up to Middle America. And even the E-Verify program, because again, they’re coming up to my county for jobs – primarily jobs. If the jobs aren’t there, they don’t come.
MR. : I’m going to disagree a little bit with my fellow sheriffs, and I’ll tell you why. I think sealing the border is a very important part of this. But if we went to the border today and sealed the border, we would essentially be fighting a two-front war. Because we’ve got the other side of the border to worry about, and a foreign country, and then we’ve got everything that’s already here to deal with.
So sealing the border is the first step – but after that, the resources, not only for our federal agencies, but resources that can filter down to local law enforcement, along with the authority to be able to do the job, are the things that would probably be the most helpful, in my opinion.
MS. VAUGHAN: Right. Thank you all, again, for coming this morning. I think some of us will be around for a little while to be accosted, if you have further questions – or share contact information. (Chuckles.) But again, thanks for coming, and have a good day.