An Ohio sheriff who billed the federal government for the cost of jailing criminal aliens and asked Mexico to reimburse him in his fight against Mexican-based drug rings says the Senate's failure to pass an immigration-reform bill is reason enough for states to target illegal aliens themselves.
"It seems that maybe the 'silent majority' was heard after all by federal legislators," said Richard K. Jones, the sheriff of Butler County, Ohio. "No one I spoke with liked the feds' idea of watered-down immigration reform."
Sheriff Jones, who called on state officials last week to issue a "resolution of nonsupport" for the federal reform proposal, said the bill's demise means that Ohio — and other states — should enact legislation to deal with what he called a "continuing illegal-immigration crisis."
"Let's create stricter state laws to go after employers who hire persons who are in this state illegally," he said. "Also, let's make English the official language of the state. Those who live in Ohio should know our language. Taxpayers should not have to pay for interpreters in schools, and U.S. citizens living here shouldn't have to learn another language."
Sheriff Jones, along with state Rep. Courtney Combs, will call on House Speaker Jon Husted and Senate President Bill Harris to help enact legislation aimed at addressing illegal-immigration issues.
The sheriff said certain aspects of the immigration crisis cannot be dealt with at the state level — such as sealing and securing the borders and eliminating amnesty for those present illegally — but he said states can help themselves in seeking to lessen the problem.
"If we would make it a crime to be in Ohio illegally and local law enforcement could charge offenders with that as a state criminal offense, then we probably could get the federal government to deport those offenders," Sheriff Jones said. "Now is the time for Ohio to show the rest of the country how to deal with immigration problems."
Lawmakers in other states have sought to make illegal aliens subject to arrest under state and local criminal-trespassing laws since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Homeland Security agency responsible for deporting illegal aliens, generally does not respond to pick up illegals unless they have committed a crime.
Last year, Sheriff Jones billed Homeland Security $125,000 for the cost of jailing illegal aliens in his county, saying he was angry the federal government had failed in its responsibility to keep illegals out of the United States. The bill was never paid.
Although the sheriff told The Washington Times the federal government might not be legally obligated, he intended to send similar notices until the federal government gained control of the border.
"Why should Butler County taxpayers have to pay for jail costs associated with people we don't believe should ever have been in this country to begin with, let alone this state or county?" Sheriff Jones said. "They are in my jail because they have committed crimes here, and it's time the federal government should at least pay for the criminals they let stay here.
"If they don't want to pay for them, then they can deport them," he said.
Sheriff Jones, a 17-year veteran of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections until his 1993 appointment as chief deputy in Butler County and his election as sheriff in 2004, also called on Mexico to authorize the payment of $61,141 for "fair compensation for reimbursement" of costs and other related expenses for the most recent marijuana arrests in Butler County.
"It would be really nice if they pay, but I honestly don't think they will," he said. "My real goal is to get their attention and make them want to do something about this. I am angered at all the problems I am forced to face and Butler County residents are forced to pay for."
Sheriff Jones blames the Bush administration, Congress and Mexico for failing to address the problem of immigration, adding that taxpayers are "fed up with this stuff."
"As the local sheriff, I keep my ear to the ground, and I hear what the people are saying. I have the bully pulpit, and my constituents don't, so I am determined to speak for them," he said. "This is not rocket science. I intend to continue to bring this problem to the attention of anyone who will listen."