Tuesday, January 31, 2006

An Ohio sheriff has billed the Department of Homeland Security $125,000 for the cost of jailing illegal aliens arrested on criminal charges in his county, saying he’s angry that the federal government has failed in its responsibility to keep them out of the United States.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones yesterday said that although the government may not be legally obligated to pay the three bills he has sent since November, he intends to send similar ones every month until the federal government gains control of the border.

He said 900 foreign-born inmates have been booked into the crowded Butler County jail in the past year.

“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, let alone this state or county, to begin with?” Sheriff Jones said. “They are in my jail because they have committed crimes here.

“It’s time the federal government should at least pay for the criminals they let stay here,” he said. “If they don’t want to pay for them, then they can deport them.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency “repeatedly reached out to the Butler County Sheriff’s Department” and, on multiple occasions, offered ICE enforcement resources to the sheriff in addressing the illegal alien population in Butler County.

“As part of these efforts, ICE agents have interviewed the foreign nationals in the sheriff’s custody awaiting trial on state or local charges,” he said. “ICE has placed immigration detainers on all of the individuals who are illegal aliens subject to removal from the country.”

On completion of their criminal proceedings, Mr. Boyd said, ICE expects the aliens to be turned over to the agency for removal.

Sheriff Jones said ICE officials in his area have taken notice of the problem and have sought to help, but he blamed the Bush administration, Congress and the Mexican government for failing to address the overall problem of immigration.

“We’re not a border state, we’re in the middle of the country, but I can tell you the people here are fed up with this stuff,” he said. “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.

“This is not rocket science,” he said. “I intend to continue to bring this problem to the attention of anyone who will listen. There is little else I can do unless and until the system is changed.”

The sheriff noted that recent immigration legislation being considered in Washington made no mention of holding Mexican President Vicente Fox or his country responsible for failing to secure its side of the U.S.-Mexico border. He said Mexico appears to be “doing little or nothing to stop anyone” from illegally crossing into America.

“Because of this, it seems to me the United States should make Mexico fiscally responsible for the increased expense of securing our southern border,” he said.

Sheriff Jones said the U.S. government should seize Mexico’s assets in the United States and use the money to pay for increased border security, compensate the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens who came in through or from Mexico and reimburse the jails that house them.

He said, “While I love President Bush, I give him an F-minus in immigration,” noting the administration has not done enough to control the U.S. borders.

“If I accomplish anything, I hope I get more people talking about the problem,” he said. “I just hope our elected officials start listening.”

The Hispanic population in Hamilton, the Butler County seat, has grown by 500 percent since 1990. Overall, the county — in southwestern Ohio, 25 miles north of Cincinnati — has one of the region’s fastest-growing Hispanic populations.

The sheriff’s three bills represent $70-a-day in housing costs for the illegal aliens. The county forwarded bills to ICE, the Homeland Security agency in charge of detention, in the amounts of $71,610 for October, $30,030 for November and $23,380 for December.

Sheriff Jones has taken a strong public position in the past several months against what he described as the ever-increasing problems and financial burdens associated with illegal aliens at the local level. He wants changes in Ohio law to make it against the law for any illegal alien to trespass in the state — making it possible for local law enforcement to arrest illegals and have them deported.

“The thousands of dollars it costs to house these illegal aliens must be paid by each and every taxpayer in Butler County,” Sheriff Jones said. “This is money that could be put to much better use in our county.”

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