An Ohio sheriff who has been an outspoken critic of efforts by Congress to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants wants some answers from Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
In half-page ads in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday and one scheduled for Saturday, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones is asking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee:
"Sen. McCain: Why haven't we heard from you on immigration? Are you avoiding this American issue? We are all EARS."
Sheriff Jones, a Republican who's become known nationally for cracking down on illegal immigration in Butler County, said he's using money from his campaign to pay for the ads that coincide with a fundraising visit by Mr. McCain.
He has vigorously proposed tougher immigration legislation, saying existing laws are either not strong enough or are not being enforced, and has called on the federal government to reimburse his county for the cost of jailing criminal aliens.
McCain campaign spokesman Paul Lindsay said Mr. McCain, "Will secure the borders first as president, but he also believes that we need a comprehensive solution to the issue of illegal immigration."
Mr. McCain joined forces last year with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, on a failed immigration plan that Sheriff Jones and others sharply criticized. Opponents described the Kennedy-McCain plan as "amnesty" and it proved a detriment to the senator early in his presidential bid.
Mr. McCain was scheduled to visit Butler County, a Republican-heavy area key to victory in Ohio, Thursday evening for a $250-a-person fundraiser at the Four Bridges Country Club in Liberty Township.
Sheriff Butler told The Washington Times this year that the immigration bill failed in the Senate because it did not solve the problem of first securing the nation's border.
"The U.S. Senate's job is to protect and serve the citizens of this country. At times it seems as though they have forgotten whence they came," he said. "Make no mistake about the fact that the immigration system is beyond broken.
"The problem is, our border must first be secured," he said. "This Senate bill was mostly about big money and lobbyists trying to force the issue on elected officials throughout this great country."
Sheriff Jones, who also asked the Mexican government to reimburse him in his fight against Mexican-based drug rings in his county, thinks the Senate's failure to pass the bill was reason enough for states to target illegal aliens themselves and called on state officials to enact legislation to deal with what he called a "continuing illegal-immigration crisis."
He began advocating immigration reform for nearly three years when illegal immigrants started swamping the Butler County jail. He openly derided the cost of housing the inmates and targeted the employers who hired them, openly expanding his campaign to include the cost to taxpayers for illegals who use the county's schools, hospitals, courts and law enforcement.
"Just in this county alone, the cost to the taxpayers is $1 million," he said. "Add to that the cost to the citizens throughout the United States and that taxpayer burden is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
"The law is the law. We must enforce the law we have. The only additional change in the law should be that our local law enforcement should have the authority to enforce the federal immigration law without having to obtain federal permission," he said.