Frederick County Sheriff Getting Immigration Authority

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins is looking to expand his force’s role in helping enforce immigration laws.

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins will meet next week with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to discuss local deputies aiding in enforcement of federal immigration law.

The county is working to increase immigration enforcement, a duty once left to the federal government.

“My goal is if there are people here illegally in this country and they break the law in this county, then we can assist ICE in the detainment and deportation process,” Jenkins said Tuesday.

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Federal law allows local law enforcement to assist by checking immigration status of those who have been arrested.

Officers receive four to five weeks training from ICE at no cost and can then perform certain duties under the supervision of sworn ICE officials.

Those duties will be incorporated into their routine daily patrol, Jenkins said.

The all-but complete abdication of the federal role in immigration enforcement has forced more and more local authorities to start seeking an enforcement role to curtail certain criminal activity in their jurisdictions. Jenkins cites growing gang activity in Frederick County as one reason for his interest in getting ICE authority to help with detainment and deportation.

The trend of local enforcement of some immigration laws is in keeping with the federalist principles of our nation, particularly in matters of law and law enforcement. In our courts for example, just about every court of general jurisdiction in the nation is capable of interpreting and enforcing federal laws, including the Constitution. While there are certain areas of the law that are reserved for federal courts, most courts are deemed capable of enforcing federal law.

The same can and should be said of law enforcment in terms of policing. Yes, there are some areas of the law where federal expertise should take precedence, immigration and ATF are but a couple of examples. However, just because there are federal laws regarding immigration or alcohol, tobacco or firearns, does not mean that local police agencies are incapable of enforcing some parts of those laws. For example, there are local gun laws as well as federal laws, both of which are enforced at the local level.

In an interstate context, the federal police agencies like ICE should take the lead in investigations and prosecutions, but there is no reason why a local police agency cannot, indeed should not, enforce immigration laws. Presence in this nation illegally is a violation of the law and any competent police agency should be permitted to investigate, detain and begin processing illegal immigrants.

Under the program Sheriff Jenkins is entering into, local enforcement agencies would not be permitted to investigate illegal immigration as a crime in and of itself (which seems stupid), but are permitted to question detainees on their immigration status once taken into custody for other crimes.

Sheriff Jenkins’ move comes on the heels of another recent arrangement with the federal govenrment to house illegal immigrants awaiting criminal hearings throughout the region.

The Sheriff’s Office has already entered into another agreement with ICE by housing undocumented immigrants charged with crimes in states across the region.

There were 49 ICE detainees as of Tuesday, and Jenkins estimates the county will charge ICE $90,000 to house them in the month of September. Under an agreement, the federal government pays $83 per day for each illegal immigrant held. The only costs associated with detaining those immigrants are meals and a small cost for medical screening.

It costs local jails about $70 per day in fixed costs to house an inmate, but Jenkins said many of those costs would remain whether the jail has a few inmates or reaches capacity.

The detention center can hold up to 520 inmates and if it is ever full, Jenkins has the right to refuse housing inmates for ICE.

The county is making a profit on the deal, but Jenkins said that’s not his motivation for participating.

“The biggest part of the picture is it allows us to help ICE do their job to move detainees around the region and eventually to deportation,” he said.

While profit is not a motive, it sure is a nice benefit.

Kudos to Sheriff Jenkins for taking seriously an issue that much of the rest of state doesnt’ seem to care much about, including the neighboring People’s Republic of Montgomery County, which is all but a sanctuary county.

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