Police Chiefs Voice Objection To Arizona Immigration Law
TONY COX, host:
I'm Tony Cox and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.
Coming up, Congressman Sylvestre Reyes, a Democrat who served on the Border Patrol for 26 years, on why he likes President Obama's push to send National Guard troops to the border.
But, first, police chiefs from across the country, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Houston met with Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday to say they are worried about the impact of Arizona's new anti-illegal immigration law. So worried that they believe the law could affect security around the country. Fifteen other states are now considering laws similar to Arizona's.
Joining us is Chuck Jenkins, the sheriff for Frederick County in Maryland. In 2008, Sheriff Jenkins entered into a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security's immigration and customs office to begin the 287G criminal alien program which trains office personnel from law enforcement operations to identify and begin deportation proceedings against illegal aliens committing crimes within Frederick County.
Chief, welcome to the program, or sheriff, welcome to the program, excuse me.
Mr. CHUCK JENKINS (Sheriff, Frederick County, Maryland): Tony, thank you for having me.
COX: My first question is this, you have a somewhat similar enforcement policy in your county, what is the difference between what you are doing in Frederick County and the law in Arizona?
Mr. JENKINS: Basically what the difference is, Tony, is that we are working under the 287G partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and the immigration enforcement. We are not working under state authority. We simply work under federal authority in that program.
COX: Now, you are in the northeast, can you and I'd like to put this question to you in this form can you really, from your position there, speak to the law enforcement issues that the border communities are dealing with in particular?
Mr. JENKINS: I can speak to what I see in the media, what I hear from law enforcement officials across the southwest, from other sheriffs who have told me in conversations that they are really in trouble with the crime that is attributed directly to the illegal immigration problem.
COX: One of the counterarguments to the law in Arizona is that it raises the concern that this type of law will sever very important ties with the immigrant community by making it harder for immigrants to report crime to the police. What's your reaction to that?
Mr. JENKINS: My reaction is, Tony, I don't buy into that. And I'll simply say that I know with what we're doing up here in Frederick County, Maryland, that was one of the arguments that was posed. That's what the opponents of the program would put out there. But I can tell you here in Frederick County that's not the case. The community at large both illegal immigrants and the criminal aliens who are here, who are committing crimes, they simply can't make that argument. It does not break down the community relations. We have not seen it.
COX: One of the other counterarguments, Sheriff Jenkins, is that this place is an enormous burden on certain police departments which are already stretched for resources. Your reaction to that?
Mr. JENKINS: My reaction to that is and I have to tell you, these types of answers are the politically correct answers for why you don't want to take on that responsibility or become involved in that fight. I will simply tell you here in Frederick County we have managed to operate the program as a model agency in the program without any additional personnel. We've deported through the program of ICE well over 600 persons who have committed crimes in this county. Our crime rate is down significantly. We have done it with zero extra personnel.
COX: Final thing for you is this, sheriff. Do you think or would you support having a law in Frederick County or an enforcement policy that is even stronger than the one that you currently have in place?
Mr. JENKINS: I would be a proponent. I would absolutely be in favor of a law in Maryland which authorizes state law enforcement officials to participate. If you want to call it an Arizona type law or very simply I think a statewide 287G participation would be ideal for Maryland.
COX: Do you think that there is any possibility that the 287G program might spread? And that because of your experience with it in Frederick County that that might help to spread it around the nation?
Mr. JENKINS: I have tried to spread the word to other Maryland sheriffs. There is, I think, very little interest at this point politically. The current governor of Maryland wants no parts of it. But I can tell you, by and large, the people in Frederick County where I am the sheriff, my citizens tell me, sheriff, this is what we want. I think people across this state want it, but simply, law enforcement executives aren't listening.
COX: Sheriff, I thank you for coming on. We were also expecting to hear from Minneapolis chief of police Tim Dolan, but we were joined by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who serves Frederick County in Maryland. Again, thank you, sir, for coming on.
Mr. JENKINS: Thank you, Tony.
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