Peter Bronson, Tucson Citizen, January 2, 2008
A snapshot on his Web site shows Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones with his hands on his hips, standing between a creosote bush and a cholla cactus, with the rugged sepia-brown mountains of southern Arizona in the background.
He was a long way from home at his own expense to make a point: The border is closer than we think.
In Cochise County, south of Tucson, 300 people are caught crossing the border illegally every 24 hours, Jones learned during an October visit. But Border Patrol officers told him that more than 1,000 slip past every day. And some wind up in the Butler County Jail.
He cites a Quinnipiac poll showing that more than 80 percent of Ohio opposes driver’s licenses and welfare or health benefits for illegal immigrants. Two-thirds want a fence on the Mexican border. National polls are just as lopsided. The people “get it,” but the political and media elites don’t, Jones says.
They argue for amnesty, driver’s licenses, health care benefits and welfare for illegal immigrants, who they say only want a better life for their families.
At home in Butler County, he has seen cocaine, marijuana and crystal meth from Mexico increase. “A 100-pound bust of marijuana used to be a big thing. It’s not anymore.”
“When anybody comes into our jail, they are asked if they are a U.S. citizen, and they are asked for a Social Security number. If the answer is no to either one, that sets off a signal and we notify ICE.”
Six ICE agents working out of a Butler County Jail office cover southwest Ohio. And each month they deport 40 to 50 people. At jail costs of $55 per day for each prisoner, that adds up to a monthly bill of more than $80,000.
And that’s just a drop in the overflowing bucket, the sheriff says. “It’s a mess. It’s getting worse and now it’s starting to get more violent.”
Jones has put up billboards to protest the problem, fought with and billed the federal government, and gone on radio and TV nationwide to demand federal and state help.
“Somebody has to do something,” he says. “This isn’t Texas or Arizona, but it’s becoming that way. They’re now moving to the inner part of the country where the jobs are.”
He favors increasing legal immigration, but says illegal immigrants cause problems besides crime: reduced wages, exploited workers, public health problems and the economic drain of wages sent south of the border. A backlash against people here illegally causes unfair suspicion of all Hispanics.