Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler is publicly supporting a border wall between the United States and Mexico, and is calling on Congress to fund a wall to stop the “free flow of poison” coming into the country.
In a letter to the editor, Gahler said an open border between the countries allows for the flow of heroin and opioids into the country and “into our neighborhoods and killing thousands of our friends and family members each year.”
In Harford last year, 82 people died from heroin and fentanyl, he said.
In a televised speech Tuesday night, President Donald Trump argued the wall was needed to resolve a security and humanitarian “crisis,” blaming illegal immigration for what he said was a scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S. and asking: “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”
Democrats in response accused Trump of appealing to “fear, not facts” and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.
Trump threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can't reach a deal to fund his promised border wall. He was headed to Texas to visit the border and help make his case for a wall.
Gahler, a Republican, said securing the border is essential for public safety across the nation.
“I support President Trump’s address to the American people regarding the need for the immediate funding and construction of a border wall,” he writes.
“I call on our members of Congress from the State of Maryland to support the President’s request for funding.”
Gahler, who was re-elected to a second term as sheriff in November with more than 68 percent of the vote, has been outspoken on immigration issues before.
In October 2016, he signed an agreement with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement that covers screening for undocumented aliens at the county detention center, who are suspected of crimes threatening public safety.
"We are looking for the worst offenders who are here victimizing our citizens here in Harford County," he said at the time.
Gahler is also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
In 2013, he called for “more guns, not less” following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and a failed amendment at the federal level to require background checks of all gun purchasers.
"As God-awful as Sandy Hook was, the answer is actually more guns, not less,” he said.
In 2017, he supported bills sponsored by Harford legislators that would allow people attending worship services to carry a firearm for self defense.
“Can you think of anything more egregious than being in the house of the Lord and someone coming in with ill intent?” Gahler asked at the time.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.