I find it necessary to respond to the recent commentary by Viviana Westbrook, a Catholic Legal Immigration Network advocate attorney (”Federal program in Frederick County stokes fear of — and in — undocumented immigrants,” July 21). This is by far one of the most biased, one-sided, intentionally misrepresented opinion pieces that I have ever read. There was so much factually incorrect with what she wrote that it warrants correction with the true facts.
The 287(g) program has nothing to do with legal immigration, “undocumented immigrants,” or the legal immigrant community; it is about identifying “criminal aliens,” anyone not born in the United States who is subject to deportation due to a criminal action or history. This program is a jail-based program within the confines of the detention center involving trained correctional officers. Sworn deputy sheriffs are in no way involved, and the program has nothing to do with law enforcement actions on the street. The program does not “encourage over policing of people who appear to be foreign born,” as alleged. The comment made that “undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes” is unproven rhetoric because in most jurisdictions the data is not tracked and simply non-existent.
In 2008, my office partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ICE 287(g) program and it has been very effective in identifying and removing criminal aliens for deportation. There have been 1,753 detainers placed on criminals, with 1,585 of those served and placed in the federal custody of ICE for deportation. This includes 113 criminal gang members and 43 individuals identified as unaccompanied juveniles that were either validated gang members or committed serious felonies. The crimes committed by those 1,585 criminal aliens have included various degrees of murder, aggravated and first degree assault, serious domestic assault, rape, sexual assault of women and children, drug distribution and trafficking, robbery and, yes, driving while intoxicated. It is not the very minor cases as declared in the recent commentary. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes the decisions on detainer holds and removals, and the sheriff has no involvement or influence in those decisions.
The author wrongfully alleges that racial profiling occurs, which is absolutely not the case. The two lawsuits mentioned had nothing to do with the 287(g) program and factually speaking we did not interrogate the immigrants about their immigration status. The lawsuits are an easy target to use, and the writer misrepresents those in her brief comments. The 287(g) program has been a very effective program in terms of public safety by not releasing criminal aliens back onto the streets. Frederick County is safer because of the partnership with ICE.
Recently, I returned from the border in Cochise County, Arizona. I have personally seen the situation at the border wall and speaking with border sheriffs, we should be calling this an “American catastrophe.” As I have said for years, every county in America will become a border county. The author states in her commentary that it’s far past time to end the 287(g) program. Just the opposite, it’s time for every jurisdiction to cooperate and partner with ICE to protect their communities. The Biden administration has to reverse border policy and let ICE do the job of criminal enforcement within the United States to protect all Americans. Readers, ask yourselves one question, “Going forward, which county do you believe will be a safer Maryland county to live in?”
Chuck Jenkins, Frederick
The writer, a Republican, has served as sheriff of Frederick County since 2006.
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