Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, 287(g) and ICE: the Wrong Choice for Frederick County

Sheriff Jenkins is a hard man. In the same vein of crooked, corrupt, and criminal “law enforcement” figures like former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke and former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Jenkins is “tough on crime”. Or at least that is what he wants us to believe about him. The sheriff also clearly wants such a position to be viewed positively by the Frederick County citizens. But should it be?

Sheriff Jenkins’ crown jewel of his service to Frederick County is the 287(g) program. 287(g) is, of course, a recently added section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, something that allows ICE officials and police officers to illegally detain people suspected of being illegal immigrants, and take action to deport them. 287(g) is a PATRIOT Act era piece of legislation that ultimately results from the failures of Clinton administration policies.

287(g) goes hand in hand with the infamous “Three Strike law” of 1994, and the “1033 Program” of 1997; the latter of which in the last 20 years has transferred over $5 billion of military weapons and equipment to law enforcement, and this armament has only worsened citizen relationships with police. These failures of legislation during Clinton paved the way for further authoritarian abuses under Bush, and because Obama continued bad policies in bad faith, the current state of law enforcement in the Trump administration is disastrous.

287(g) is in direct violation of the landmark Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio (1968). Terry v. Ohio determined that a person cannot be detained by law enforcement unless they are suspected to have just committed, will commit, or is in the process of committing a crime, and the detaining officer legally has to have “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to justify the detainment. In other words, you cannot “Terry stop” someone unless you have good enough reason to actually beat reasonable doubt, or else you are violating their rights. A police officer does not actually have the right or legal authority to break the law in the course of carrying out their duties.

“He looks suspicious”, “he looks like a gang member”, or even “he looks illegal” are not good enough reasons, legally, to justify detainment. 287(g) attempts to solve that “problem”, giving LEOs carte blanche to detain non-whites, under the auspices that the “suspect” may be a gang member, thus an illegal immigrant. Even if they are, the detaining officer still has to satisfy the standards laid out by Terry v. Ohio to detain anyone lawfully. No piece of legislation, no matter what it is, should give police the ability to violate people’s rights in the name of terrorism. No piece of legislation that tries to do that should be considered constitutional. No such legislation should be legal, or passed by lawmakers.

In simple terms, being an illegal immigrant or a gang member are technically crimes “on paper”, satisfying mens rea (“guilty mind”), one of the philosophical requirements for something to be a crime. But it does not satisfy actus reus (“guilty act”). With exceptions, we often need both conditions in order for crimes to be crimes. The state of being an illegal immigrant or a gang member is not a crime in terms of action, if they are doing nothing wrong at the time of arrest.

They often have to be causing a crime physically in order to be arrested legally. Because an officer cannot visually determine a person’s immigration status, 287(g) essentially legalized racial profiling. The fact that Frederick isn't a sanctuary city, and that Sheriff Jenkins doesn’t want it to become one, is telling. Of course, Jenkins and his right wing supporters claim that 287(g) cuts down on crime; this is a lie.

A Brunswick citizen who wrote a letter to the editor of the Frederick News Post back in August writes the following: “…arrest rates declined more slowly in Frederick County than in Frederick city, showing evidence of possible racial profiling by putting more resources into policing the Hispanic community. Crime rates in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have been going down at a higher rate than Frederick County’s despite their much larger immigrant populations. Neither of these counties participates in 287(g).”

Why are officers and ICE agents so gung ho to arrest and deport people? Because such arrests, just like President Trump’s disastrous border wall idea, are racially motivated. The previously cited article states the following: “…people spoke about being pulled over in Frederick County and being asked for their passport or papers. Sheriff Jenkins’ immediate response was, ‘I do not believe for one minute there is any law enforcement officer in this county that is out on the street asking any questions about immigration status.’ …With data and testimonies such as these, a sheriff who responds to citizen concerns with harsh dismissal.”

In a June 6th, 2018 public hearing on the 287(g) program, many left wing groups, immigrant advocacy groups, and the ACLU of Maryland showed up to protest 287(g). Sheriff Jenkins threatened to stonewall the hearing because protestors against the 287(g) expressed their anger. Sheriff Jenkins is reported by the FNP to have said, “We either stop now or we end the meeting before it starts,” while a male protester was escorted out. I can find no indication that this protester was violent, or a threat in any way, but he was still forcibly removed from a public hearing that the man had every right to attend and express his voice. Sheriff Jenkins attempted to prevent that.

Is he a man who simply resorts to force in order to silence his critics, or does Sheriff Jenkins prefer to use fearmongering to impose his will? “Everyone against this program just doesn’t want any kind of immigration enforcement at all,” Jenkins said, according to conservative newspaper the Washington Times. “With the border crisis, every county in the nation is going to be a border county. It’s going to be chaos. Every county needs to enforce the laws of this nation, and that’s what we’re doing with this program.”

Julio Murillo of the immigrant rights group We Are Casa addressed the June 6th crowd, saying that the 287(g) program “destroys community trust in law enforcement.” Not only does Sheriff Jenkins fail to understand his critics, and fails to understand the reasons why people are against 287(g), the worst part is that Sheriff Jenkins simply doesn’t care. He unfairly and disingenuously misrepresents critics of him and of 287(g) as people who want no laws at all, and this could not be further from the truth.

287(g) is bad policy, and rather than understand that and address 287(g)’s failures, Sheriff Jenkins would rather pretend that 287(g)’s problems don’t exist, and that its detractors must therefore be evil anarchists who want to destroy law and order. This isn’t true, but it is politically expedient to his position and his reputation as the big, tough sheriff. By trying to hold himself up on a pedestal, and by slandering concerned citizens who don’t want their families to be ripped apart by authoritarian ICE officers, Sheriff Jenkins decides that the people and democracy are the problem. Sheriff Jenkins prefers force and obedience to freedom and justice.

Another FNP letter to the editor states: “Roxanna Santos was arrested by two sheriff’s deputies while she ate lunch outside her workplace. They checked her ID and arrested her after learning of an open civil deportation warrant by ICE. In 2009, Santos sued the then-Frederick County Board of County Commissioners, Jenkins and the arresting deputies for civil rights violations, seeking more than $1 million in damages. In 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the deputies had arrested Santos without probable cause.

“The arrest took place approximately six months after the 287(g) program was activated in Frederick County. A central argument of Santos’ attorneys was that Jenkins was acting as a policymaker for Frederick County when he entered into the agreement with ICE. Now, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has agreed, ruling on Sept. 27: “Close inquiry finds Sheriff Jenkins as the final policymaker for Frederick County over ‘the particular issue’ in question.”

“Despite the fact that Santos was not arrested under the ICE agreement, Judge Blake said Jenkins was liable because he knowingly overstepped the terms of the agreement when he communicated his policy to deputies. [Jenkins] promulgated a General Order that required all patrol officers to run warrant checks on stopped individuals, and detain any individual with an outstanding warrant, regardless of whether the warrant was civil or criminal,” the ruling said.”

This article continues: “In the years since the Santos arrest, Jenkins has scaled back his office’s involvement in ICE enforcement, restricting the warrant checks to suspects who are brought to the county jail on other charges. But the impression persists among immigrants and their supporters that he is anti-immigrant, in large part because he emphasizes his actions. In his 2017 annual report, Jenkins said ‘more than 1,400 criminal aliens have been placed into the deportation/removal process, including 100 criminal gang members, primarily MS13.’

“Getting gang members off the streets and into jail or out of the country is a good outcome. But Jenkins’ own numbers mean that 1,300 of the immigrants swept up in the program are not gang members. Experts believe that most of these people — many of whom have fled violence in their home countries — pose no danger to our community. A 2012 report by the Maryland General Assembly’s Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland said that ‘greater inflows of immigrants, including unauthorized immigrants, do not tend to be correlated with increased crime rates. Indeed, immigrants are less likely to commit violent crime than those that are U.S. born, and concentrated immigrant communities tend to have lower crime rates than average,’ the report said.”

Of course people are being asked for their papers at traffic stops, and when they’re being detained by ICE. That is literally ICE’s job. Despite Sheriff Jenkins’ claims that this doesn’t happen, 287(g) literally allows it to happen, and Jenkins knows it. If people are claiming that they are being unfairly racially profiled, and asked for their papers during traffic stops, then they are being detained in violation of their rights. Sheriff Jenkins is allowing people’s rights to be violated on suspicion that they are illegal immigrants. Various immigrant advocacy groups and human rights groups have pointed out that Hispanic immigrants, illegal or legal, are less likely to report crimes if they feel they are likely to be deported.

More than that, illegal immigrants who are the victims of crimes won’t feel safe near police. This may increase police suspicion of any Hispanic person, if the Hispanic community as a whole fears law enforcement. How does this improve the public opinion of police? It doesn’t, it worsens community relations. When we take into account that the enforcement of 287(g) actually sustains crime, and lowers reports of crimes because of people’s fear of the police and their lack of trust in them, only one conclusion can be had: 287(g) is not only violative of citizens’ rights, it also doesn’t work. Sheriff Jenkins is a huge believer in 287(g), despite its failures, perhaps in spite of them. And it is because of this that he is a failure of a sheriff.

A website called “Local DVM” reports that when Jenkins met with many other sheriffs on Capitol Hill to demand stricter immigration policy, “Jenkins says one of the top issues he wants to bring to the attention of the White House is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)…The sheriff says deputies on patrol in the county do not ask about a person’s citizenship when they are encountered. ‘Nothing that law enforcement does on the street has anything to do with immigration enforcement or any questions about immigration,’ Jenkins said.” Given Jenkins’ cooperation with ICE to enforce 287(g), Jenkins’ statement here is obviously a falsehood.

Jenkins is also a strong supporter of the southern border wall, another policy which is rooted in racism. Because of academic studies, we know that illegal immigrants will not want to cause crime because they don’t want to be caught and deported. Many of them are seeking a better life in the US, and in so doing they want to integrate into the culture. That means not causing crime, going to school, getting jobs, and enrolling their children in American schools, all to facilitate cultural conversion and melding; to survive economically, to learn English, and to eventually be accepted in a nation that like Sheriff Jenkins, has always hated and feared immigrants despite the nation literally being built by them.

Despite right wing fearmongering about immigrants, they do not and cannot collect welfare, because as non-citizens, they have no Social Security numbers, which are legally required to receive welfare. Background checks are also required to receive welfare. Large studies of Social Security fraud have shown that virtually zero illegal immigrants can defraud the system, because they can’t pass as naturalized American citizens when they have no SSNs. What little fraud of Social Security that is committed is done by American citizens, almost always native born, such as con artists who murder the elderly and continue to cash their welfare checks.

There is also the right wing argument that immigrants don’t pay taxes. In no universe is this claim even a modicum true. Illegal immigrants still pay sales tax on everything that they buy, unless they buy on native reservations where they are less likely to have sales tax. Illegal immigrants are still helping pay for property taxes as long as they pay rent on whatever their living situation is, especially if they buy a trailer, or a plot of land to own. If an immigrant buys land to own, they have to directly pay property taxes themselves. Illegal immigrants still pay FICA and other taxes on their wages, as long as they have jobs where they are given pay stubs, and are not simply paid in cash under the table, i.e. illegally.

If illegal immigrants have pay stubs from wage paying work, FICA is taking out taxes on their wages, period; and I know this because FICA is mandatory, it is automatically taken out of our wages before we even get them. Even if an immigrant is given cash under the table, they will still pay taxes by using that money to buy goods, and pay for the roof over their heads. It is in reality their boss who is failing to pay what is duly owed to the state through taxes, by failing to pay and report fair wages. It is easier for unethical businessmen running unethical businesses to pay cash under the table, and they are committing more crimes, and dodging more taxes, than an illegal immigrant does by simply working and living.

The only possible way that an immigrant could never pay taxes is if they literally never bought anything including food, if they never lived anywhere and never gave anyone any money for any kind of living arrangement whatsoever, and never had a job of any kind, or any money ever. It is literally impossible for an illegal immigrant to live and survive, to have any kind of life, and fail to pay some kind of tax. Donald Trump or Jeff Bezos pay fewer taxes than any illegal immigrant does.

Illegal immigrants always will be paying taxes as long as they have jobs, have apartments, have children to take of, buy clothes, and eat food. The belief that immigrants are vampires of the American economy is a fearmongering falsehood. Many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies pay zero taxes, and as such they are infinitely greater burdens individually than all immigrants, legal and illegal, combined. The immigrants are not the problem, but Jenkins’ belief that they are is not only compromising his ethical integrity as a public servant, but his legally required impartiality as a law enforcement leader. He is not impartial, he cannot be, and because of this he ought not lead.

Jenkins desires hundreds of billions of dollars to be spent on a border wall that can easily be defeated by tunneling under it, sailing a ship around it, or by taking a plane over it. The Trump administration has failed to explain how they are going to build his wall, who is going to build it, how long it will take, what it will cost, who is going to pay for it, or how he will prevent anyone from subverting it. Trump’s border wall is both a failure of policy and a failure to simply think.

None of President Trump’s wall supporters support a militarization of America’s coastlines, or a militarization of the border with Canada. Why not? If it is simply security minded, and for no other reason, why isn’t President Trump advocating for spending hundreds of trillions on securing all of America’s borders? Because it is about the southern border only. Border walls for any of America’s boundaries would be impossible to afford, irresponsible, and would be a death knell to human rights in America. A country that is literally trillions of dollars in debt does not have hundreds of billions to throw at a wall that will not work.

Just like 287(g), this wall is not effective policy, it is merely a symbol of hatred and fear. President Trump promised he would force Mexico to pay for it, a promise that would violate Mexico’s national sovereignty, destroy relations, and would never be able to be effectively enforced without serious violation of international law, or a declaration of war against Mexico, which would throw the world into chaos, and likely cause someone else to declare war against the US. Despite all of these facts, Jenkins persists as an ardent supporter of a wall that will never work. He willfully supports policies that he knows do not work, because it is not about the effectiveness of those policies in reality. It is about his emotional attachment to these ideas.

Jenkins supports the wall emotionally, not practically. It is indicative of his failure to be a considerate, thoughtful, impartial, or fair sheriff. Immigration, whether legal or illegal, is a blight on his vision of the country. Their actual effects on society do not matter to Jenkins, what matters is his emotional perception of non-whites as enemies of Frederick County. When We Are Casa, an immigrant rights organization, points out that policies such as 287(g) disproportionately affect Hispanic citizens, demonize them, and erode public trust in law enforcement, Jenkins is silent.

He takes no actions to fix this problem. He is a thug, who believes that brown people are ruining the country, when the real causes of America’s decline involve hundreds of factors, are far more complex, and far more difficult to address. Saying the brown people are the problem is not only cruel and irresponsible, it is indicative of a mind that does not understand societal problems, or cares how to better his community. Like President Trump, like Joe Arpaio and David Clarke, Chuck Jenkins is only interested in scapegoating and brutalizing, rather than leading and fixing. We need a sheriff who will pursue equality and justice, not fearmongering and hatred.

The FNP reports that Sheriff Jenkins is also accused by Maryland State Public Defender Paul DeWolfe of having abusive, unconstitutional conditions for juvenile offenders held in adult detention facilities. Jenkins denies this claim, saying: “…It is true that the FCADC is an adult detention facility, and although the incarceration setting for juveniles is not ideal, accommodations are made to the best of our ability to ensure they are accorded all of their rights and privileges as required by the U.S. Constitution in accordance with federal and state law.”

An August 27th letter to multiple state officials from DeWolfe outline his concerns about the effect of prolonged isolation, insufficient exercise, and a lack of educational resources for juveniles, among other concerns. DeWolfe reports that one of his juvenile clients was not receiving medication that they required. DeWolfe argues correctly, and I agree, that such conditions are violative of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. By law, children must be educated, and to fail to do so is a failure to properly care for juveniles.

Jenkins claims that juvenile offenders have access to a tutor for up to an hour, once a week. This is apparently enough education for a juvenile, according to our Sheriff. He notes that offenders do have access to a GED program, but it is only for those past the age of 18. Minor offenders, who should be held in a rehabilitative juvenile facility, are flat out being improperly cared for, ignored, when they are housed in an adult detention facility that is improperly equipped to handle juvenile offenders.

Is this a job well done, is this Jenkins going above and beyond the call of duty to care for, and successfully rehabilitate, juvenile offenders? No it is not, and when the Office of the Public Defender demands that the Sheriff do a better job, the Sheriff rebukes the responsibility, making excuses for why he doesn’t have to. OPD Attorney Debbie St. John criticizes the Sheriff’s response letter to DeWolfe and the OPD, stating that the Sheriff is relying on inaccurate information. The client in question who needed medication only received one of them out of the four that were required, and that the client was receiving no yard time for exercise, and no education.

Local DVM reported Sheriff Jenkins speaking at a National Crime Reduction Summit. The website quotes Sheriff Jenkins as saying: “We don’t conduct any enforcement efforts on the street. Everything is after someone is arrested and brought to our jail,” said Sheriff Jenkins. And while at the event, Sheriff Jenkins spoke directly with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, welcoming the support of the Trump Administration.

“Well, it was an honor, and I’ve actually met Sessions when he was Senator Sessions. I worked in his office on some of the immigration issues, so I’ve met him before, [and] I’ve worked with his staff before,” said Sheriff Jenkins. Sheriff Jenkins said he received positive feedback from his presentation, and after the summit, he had a conversation with Sessions.

“[We] struck up a short conversation about immigration and how important it is in the overall fight against crime and gang activity. He actually commended the agency for what we're doing up here,” said Sheriff Jenkins. Sheriff Jenkins is very confident the Trump Administration has the backs of law enforcement…”

DOJ Attorney General Sessions is fraught with controversy himself. Sessions has a history of allegations of racism tainting his legal career. Sessions’ irrationally zealous anti-marijuana stance is well-documented, as is the increase in civil asset forfeiture performed by federal LEOs, as directed by Sessions. Civil asset forfeiture is a polite term for private military companies coming in to teach local law enforcement how to legally seize what you own, using the PATRIOT Act and similar legislation as justification, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Sessions ignores white supremacist violence, and downplays its prevalence in America, even while the FBI reports the opposite.

Sessions has been questioned by Congress on his involvement in the Trump/Russia collusion investigation, and Sessions has been repeatedly criticized for his insistence that black community organizations are engaged in terrorist actions. When pressed by Congress, Sessions cannot think of a simple example or provide any evidence, yet Sessions continues to insist. He demands federal agents infiltrate and surveil black organizations, seemingly without probable cause. This is a man that our Sheriff idolizes and respects? Of course, because apparently Sessions feels the same way about black Americans that Jenkins feels about Hispanic ones.

The Huffington Post reports, alongside NBC-4 Washington that in 2015, Sheriff Jenkins met with a hate group in a two-day immigration event in McAllen, Texas. The group in question, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. They were founded in 1979 by John Tanton, an opthamologist and admitted white supremacist. They admit on their website that they seek a harsh reduction in both illegal and legal immigration, a hard, militarized border, and increased policing of the borders.

Sheriff Jenkins denies any involvement with a hate group, however. He says he went down to Texas “on a fact finding mission to assess security on the southern border”. Possibly. Conservative critics of immigration like Jenkins often state that they “have no problem with legal immigration”, but FAIR seeks to eliminate all immigration to the United States, and they funded the Sheriff’s “fact finding mission”, as well as the summit he attended. Other patrons of FAIR and their summits include none other than Joe Arpaio.

If Sheriff Jenkins wanted to show himself as a tough but fair-minded man, a strong but compassionate leader to reach across the aisle and win liberal votes, he failed. It is clear to me that he chose the wrong organization’s summit to attend, and he allowed the wrong group to fund his border excursion. He either didn’t look into them and what their positions are, or he saw an organization that was anti-immigration just like he is, didn’t care what the political implications would be for his career, and said “sign me up”. I truly don’t know which possibility would be worse.

FAIR is not the only controversial group that Sheriff Jenkins has rubbed elbows with. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, another organization that Jenkins is affiliated with, states their positions in a hostile, hate-filled way about immigration. According to their own website, the CSPOA advocates:

  1. Station National Guard and regular military troops on our southern border immediately to close off the flood. We should defend our own borders before we defend the borders of dozens of foreign countries as we are now doing. Armed drones on the border should be deployed using those we bring home from the Middle East.
  2. Summarily deport all illegal aliens as they manage to get across our border. The only exceptions would be individually considered and approved requests for asylum. Deport all illegal aliens caught committing crimes in the US. No exceptions.
  3. Enforce laws against hiring of illegal aliens.
  4. State governments have a duty and full authority to protect their own boundaries and to do whatever they deem necessary to make up for lax or non-existent federal enforcement.
  5. After the border is secured, not before, legislation should be considered that will improve and streamline our immigration process and place reasonable limits on the numbers coming in.
  6. County Sheriffs must use their authority to protect their citizens from abuse and violation of their rights by the invasion of illegal aliens.”

The CSPOA is here advancing rhetoric for a hard, militarized border just like FAIR, a large amount of military presence, cruel immigration policies which would result in the continuation of the tearing apart of families at the border. The fourth point is very interesting, for sheriffs to do whatever they deem necessary to police borders and enforce immigration.

Anything they deem necessary, like what? To violate constitutional rights? To kill without hesitation? To detain people illegally, torture them, rape them? What does “whatever they deem necessary” mean? It could mean anything. To word their statement that way is irresponsible. CSPOA also advocates against any regulations whatsoever on the Second Amendment, including simple background checks.

Sheriff Jenkins was also roundly criticized by many Frederick citizens for his insistence that the controversial police action in the death of Down’s Syndrome man and Frederick County resident Ethan Saylor was in accordance with the law, that his officers “did nothing wrong” when three officers forcibly dragged and carried Saylor out of the Regal Westview theater, and then when everyone fell to the ground on top of Saylor, Saylor’s heart stopped. The incident garnered near universal anger and sympathy for the deceased nationwide, and was even reported on by the BBC.

Many correctly pointed out that the officers simply did not have to do that, that Saylor had a caretaker who was pulling up in a car, and that if the officers had simply waited and not escalated the situation, the caretaker would have reentered the theater to safely take Ethan home, no harm, no foul. They could have done that, they should have done that, and they didn’t. Rather than discipline his officers for their failure to prevent an accidental death, Jenkins praised them. They received no punishment for Saylor’s death, despite the fact that the State Chief Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation.

The Washington Post reports that Sheriff Jenkins has, “helped deport hundreds of illegal immigrants, making him a hero of the tea party movement. He has given full-throated speeches to conservative audiences decrying ‘the redistribution of our own wealth’ as the country faces ‘economic and social collapse’.” Jenkins has cleared several of his own officers in “internal” departmental investigations, for several controversial shootings that the public decried.

The Post writes that, “He attacks President Obama, warning that the country is on ‘the threshold of a socialist government’ and that the president’s health-care overhaul will ‘force a collapse of our economy.’ Amnesty for immigrants in the United States illegally could ‘bring this country to its knees’.” This article was in 2013, and in the five years since, changing the ACA did not collapse the economy, and President Obama didn’t bring about socialism in America. Sanctuary cities are not teeming with violence and flaming chaos in the streets.

Jenkins is a reactionary doomsayer, and his predictions about the future were not only inaccurate, they were rooted in fear, hatred, and disgust for immigrants. Jenkins is more interested in looking tough than in leading well. He is not a responsible leader, nor is he a thoughtful policymaker. He is a joke, he is a bully, and he does not deserve to be the sheriff of Frederick County. I will not vote for him, and each and every reader of the FNP needs to know what he has done, so that they don’t vote for him either.

Disabled, bisexual American socialist and political activist. Student of politics, aspiring journalist, and academic. Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice.