Debate rages over sheriff’s interest in 287(g) program

 

Members of the Hispanic community speak out against the 287(g) program Tuesday at the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins defended his decision to apply for the 287g program through the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The decision has been met with vocal opposition from Hispanic groups in Culpeper County who feel the program puts an undeserved target on their population.

The program, one of ICE’s top partnership initiatives, allows a state or local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement, in order to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

Jenkins said the program only applies to inmates who come through the intake of Culpeper County Jail and is not part of a rumored “roundup” of illegal aliens.

“I think there’s people with an agenda who often twist and take pieces of statements and information to make it what they want for their agenda,” Jenkins said. “My agenda is simple: I’m the sheriff. I’m the only person in this county and this state who can implement this program in Culpeper. That means I am the one who will rest with the conscience of the decision if we don’t do everything we can house and help deport people who could possibly kill or injure our citizens.”

Jenkins stressed that this is a not a street level program where patrol deputies could detain and then turn over an illegal alien to ICE. The program will train four deputies initially, with two more added later, to use ICE software as inmates are taken into the jail. They are already asked a standard set of questions, Jenkins said, and this program will ask more pertaining to whether they are in the country legally or not.

“No deputy sheriff has or will have the authority to arrest any citizen or any person on the street who we feel may be an illegal alien,” Jenkins said. “This is only inside the walls of the jail.”

Jenkins said he is not hiring or asking for future positions and said the four-week training would be fully funded by the federal government through the program.

There is only one other locality in Virginia that has the program, said Earl Kennedy, Field Program manager for 287g program for Washington Field Office. That jurisdiction is Prince William and the program has been in place for years. Jenkins said he has done his due diligence and has visited Prince William and witnessed how the program works firsthand.

“This is much smaller scale and much smaller cost,” Jenkins said of Culpeper’s involvement in the program.

Opposition to the program

More than 200 people converged on the evening Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, filling the room to capacity and requiring people to stand outside in the rain as both sides of the argument for the program met.

Marty Bywaters-Baldwin, a Culpeper town resident, presented a petition with 240 signatures opposing the program.

“This not what we need for Culpeper County,” he said. “You as the Board of Supervisors should take a stand on how it is implemented or not in our county.”

Janet Garcia referenced the days earlier conversation, where Kennedy referred to picking up “bodies.”

“He described them as bodies,” Garcia said, holding back tears. “Bodies are someone who is dead.”

Bywaters-Baldwin also addressed the usage of the word bodies.

“Look at these beautiful children here tonight,” he said. “Those aren’t bodies, those are beautiful human beings.”

Jason Guy, of the Cedar Mountain District, also spoke out against the program. He cited the case of teachers Leo and Gabriella Legora who have to leave the country at the end of the year.

“They came here as educators separately, but it was here in this county they met and fell in love,” Guy said. “They applied for their permit in 2012, they spend thousands of dollars to maintain their status but a mistake happened to them. Because of that mistake, instead of being rewarded for their service, they are being shown the door. Our labor department has decided to rule with law and not compassion. There’s 100 more families just like them, who deserve compassion.”

Longtime planning commission member Francis Updike, along with several others, argued that if you are on the right side of the law, this will never be an issue.

“If you don’t break the law, you don’t have a problem,” Updike said. “If you’re not in the jail, you don’t have a problem. Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t affect you.”

Kurt Christensen, of the Stevensburg District, said Culpeper should not become a sanctuary city and cited the 2016 election as a sign that America is done with illegal immigration, finishing it with a “Viva Trump.”

Cost is one of the sticking points for area groups who do not want to see the program implemented in Culpeper County.

Sophia Gregg, attorney with Legal Aid Justice Center, was present during the sheriff’s remarks and met with area groups following the presentation to the BOS.

“I think the concerns of the group are many,” Gregg said. “It’s concerning that the sheriff wants to implement this program in a town as small and without the concerns of any sort of criminal immigrant issue here. There’s a lot of fear that there’s going to be a larger mistrust of the police, that they can’t turn to the sheriff for fear that this program exists.”

Jenkins said the cost to the county would not be as much as the groups are making it out to seem.

“I don’t see the enormous cost,” Jenkins said. “I’m currently not asking for any funding and I don’t see us needing it because of the scale we operate.”

Legal Aid Justice Center attorney Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg said that the sheriff’s statement was very telling.

“He said ‘it’s not going to cost the county an enormous cost,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “I thought that was interesting that he wouldn’t commit to it being no cost. If you look at Fauquier County what happened earlier in the year, the people of Fauquier County basically got the sheriff to commit ‘I won’t do this if there is any cost to the county.’ Very quickly he realized that was a promise he wouldn’t be able to keep, so he very quickly withdrew his application.”

There are more than 50 localities nationally that are in the program and the memorandum of agreement “defines the scope and limitations of the delegation of authority. It also establishes the supervisory structure for the designated immigration officers working under the cross-designation and prescribes the agreed upon complaint process governing officer conduct during the life of the MOA,” according to the ICE website

Gregg said that the memorandum of understanding will also show the higher cost her agency cites.

“It’s not a secret what the cost will be, you can look up the memorandum of understanding that’s a template for every county,” Gregg said. “It has expenditures, in those expenditures you can tell it will cost a substantial amount of money.”

Gregg said while ICE does cover the cost of training, state and local governments have

to pay the majority of costs associated with a 287(g) program including travel, housing, and per

diem for officers during training; salaries; overtime; other personnel costs; and administrative

supplies.

She has met with several groups in Culpeper who fear that the program could tear families apart.

“Right now it’s about organizing the community and having their voice heard,” Gregg said. “Especially the Hispanic community would like to have their voice heard and their concerns about the implementation of this program. We’d also like the Board of Supervisors look into whether or not this issue shouldn’t be decided by them as the governing body of Culpeper.”

BOS question the program

Jenkins cited two key examples during his presentation, one including a young pregnant woman who was killed in a head-on collision with an illegal alien who was driving drunk. Another was a member of MS-13 who he remembers from his time as an officer. The MS-13 member was arrested, convicted, served his time, deported and then later back in Culpeper County under a different name – again on the wrong side of the law.

Jenkins said the MS-13 gang problem is another concern that would addressed by the program. “In the last 30 days alone, we’ve had a member of the MS-13 gang member living in our community, wanted not only by the U.S. but wanted by his home country,” Jenkins said.

Currently, Jenkins said that an illegal alien has a 50 to 75 percent chance of being released from prison before ICE agents can come detain him. With the program, he says that detention number will be closer to 100 percent.

“I will do everything I can to see that people who can be a harm to our citizens doesn’t fall through the cracks and get released inadvertently,” Jenkins said.

Catalpa Supervisor Sue Hansohn said she was not aware of the program until constituents approached her about it. She asked if deputies will continue their normal duties – they will, Jenkins said.

“If  a person is determined to be on the list, how long would they stay in our jail before ICE would come?” Hansohn asked.

Jenkins said that under normal situations it’s a 48-hour window. According to the sheriff, the department does not currently get reimbursement for the 48-hours an inmate would be the jail, but it’s Jenkins’ understanding that if they join the program they would be reimbursed for the 48 hours.

Kennedy addressed concerns about the MOA, saying that the sheriff can exit out of it at any time he wants.

East Fairfax supervisor Steve Walker asked if Kennedy’s primary focus is Prince William.

“That and expansion,” Kennedy said. “With the new administration we want to get out and do some ground work and get some expansion going.”

Walker asked if funding would be available in the future.

“The funding is already available,” Kennedy said. “We pay for their training. The only thing we don’t pay for is the officers themselves. We provide the equipment The only thing the sheriff’s office is responsible for providing is the deputies and the space to put the equipment.”

Canavan again stressed that the enforcement of the program again just focuses on inmates.

“The immigration authority is only within the confines of the jail,” Kennedy said. “Even if I asked Sheriff Jenkins if he could help me arrest someone on immigration charges, even if he were to say yes that’s illegal on my part and his part. They don’t have that authority. They have nothing to do with immigration outside the confines of the jail.”

About Jeff Say 184 Articles

Jeff Say is the editor for the Culpeper Times. He can be reached at jsay@culpepertimes.com

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