Kelly Lecker, Columbus Dispatch, May 31, 2006
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones can’t control what Congress does about the hotly debated immigration-reform issue.
He can’t force federal agents to do anything about the illegal immigrants he says are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in his county north of Cincinnati.
But Jones sat at his desk, beneath a portrait of John Wayne, and talked about what he can control.
“I took an oath to uphold all the laws of this state and of this country,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s an activist role. It’s an American role, and I’m doing this as an American.”
Jones is one of a handful of sheriffs who are using state laws to control illegal immigration in their counties.
His deputies are being trained to spot fake driver’s licenses and Social Security cards. Jones is using state tax codes and other laws to go after businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants.
Nobody has been more active or outspoken in fighting illegal immigration than Jones.
He has billed the federal government for the cost of housing illegal residents in his jail. Two signs at the sheriff’s department say “Illegal Aliens Here,” with arrows pointing toward the jail. Billboards on I-75 warn businesses not to hire anyone with false documents or fake Social Security numbers.
Jones has a Web log, on which he encourages residents to boycott businesses that hire illegal workers and discusses national immigration policy.
The site is popular, with 20,000 hits in one month. Many visitors leave comments supporting the sheriff.
In Allen County in northwestern Ohio, Sheriff Dan Beck also has taken a strong stand on illegal immigration. Deputies have training in spotting forged identifications, which Beck says allows them to arrest illegal residents under state law.
He also is trying to get the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to deputize his employees so they can enforce federal immigration laws. At a recent sheriffs association meeting, more than a dozen sheriffs said they have had to release detained illegal immigrants because federal immigration agents are too swamped to respond.