Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones — a longtime proponent of stiffer immigration laws and more secure U.S. borders — has been taking to the airwaves to rebuke the stances of two of southwest Ohio’s most powerful mayors, who said they would welcome immigrants and refugee children from Central America.
Both Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in recent days have expressed willingness to become a home for federal placement of immigrant children detained at the border.
The sheriff, a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, began appearing on local and national radio and television media last week after Cranley’s announcement and has now sent a second request to the president of Mexico for funds to cover his cost for housing illegal immigrants.
In a letter dated July 29, the sheriff informed Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that it has cost in excess of $900,000 during the past 10 years to house about 3,000 Mexican nationals in the jail, before they are turned over to federal officials.
“I think it only fair that you provide me with some financial support for dealing with your criminals,” Jones wrote.
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Jones has been making rounds on various local and national news outlets to discuss the immigration topic in recent days. He will appear on the Fox News channel today during a 4 p.m. broadcast to discuss immigration. This is his second appearance of the week on the conservative TV news channel.
Jones has sent bills to Mexico and the federal government before for costs incurred dealing with undocumented immigrants. The sheriff is reimbursed by the federal government for housing their immigration prisoners. In the latest missive, he said the total cost of dealing with illegals runs in the millions.
“This cost number absolutely skyrockets if you were to factor in the man-hour costs of all the investigations conducted before making arrests, the costs of actual prosecution through our local courts, and all the other various social services costs that Butler County taxpayers provide to your former residents,” he wrote.
Several elected officials the Journal-News contacted did not want to weigh in on the sheriff’s recent efforts, but Butler County Commission President T.C. Rogers said Jones’ actions “demonstrate the frustration that a law officer has in trying to protect his community.” Rogers said he has launched his own immigration initiative, a fact-finding mission to see what it would cost if suddenly the federal government sent some of the Honduran children Butler County’s way.
“I was asking the question, what if the federal government sent a busload of kids to us,” he said. “I wanted to be able to have the cost of what it would cost us. If we’re trying to make a budget and that cost times however many kids, would have to be taken away from our present kids here. I’m actually working on a figure.”
Commissioner Don Dixon said he is glad Jones sent the letter, because it has gotten such media attention and maybe that will get people at the top of the “food chain” to take action. He said the county can barely afford to handle social service and criminal justice costs for legal residents, much less those who are here illegally.
“It always starts with the little guy raising the issue,” he said. “You can only take so much and then you can’t take anymore. They’ve had the opportunity at the top to fix it for a long time…. I think it has to start somewhere, it takes somebody that has the ability to raise that kind of awareness publicly and the sheriff can do that… I’m glad he did it.”
County Treasurer Nancy Nix said Jones’ efforts are laudable.
“The county budget is $25 (million), $30 million and it is ever increasing because of these types of costs,” she said. “As the property tax collector, all those services he’s providing are not free. I think he is just sounding an alarm, a wake up call that the services his office provides do cost money, and he is trying to raise awareness of this important issue.”
County Recorder Danny Crank said he fully supports Jones and his efforts in the immigration arena.
“I see nothing wrong with what the sheriff’s doing,” he said. “That’s his department, that’s what he does. I think he’s concerned about Butler County and the welfare of Butler County and that’s why he does those things. The sheriff is looking out for Butler County.”