Details of Ohio Sheriff's Immigration Deal Should Be Public, ACLU Says

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
December 14, 2006 12:00 am

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HAMILTON, OH – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today filed public records requests to uncover details of an agreement between federal immigration officials and Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones that grants local police some authority to enforce federal immigration law.

“Immigration law is hopelessly complex,” said ACLU of Ohio staff attorney Carrie Davis. “Most local law enforcement are not granted authority to enforce immigration laws because they require a great deal of expertise and experience in order to effectively and fairly implement them.”

Davis added, “Sheriff Jones has already demonstrated hostility towards the Hispanic population in Butler County. It is important to review the document and discern what he can and cannot do under this agreement and ensure he stays within those boundaries.”

Since becoming sheriff in 2005, Jones has targeted Hispanics through a series of police actions and public statements. In April 2006, Jones erected various billboards around the county featuring his picture prominently declaring that businesses that hire undocumented workers will be prosecuted. The billboards cost Butler County taxpayers $10,000. In May 2006, he detained for several hours 18 men suspected of being undocumented, despite the fact that, at the time, he had no authority to enforce federal immigration law. All of the men were eventually released.

Under the new agreement between Jones and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the sheriff’s department may now be able to enforce some immigration law, and should receive training to recognize fraudulent documents, understand various legal statuses and learn how the immigration process works.

“While the people must always carefully monitor the actions of their government officials, that oversight is especially important here given the sheriff’s apparently single-minded fixation on undocumented immigrants, his demonstrated willingness to push the boundaries of his authority and the law in this regard, and the potential for abuse of any authority the agreement grants him,” Davis said.

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