Sheriff Chuck Jenkins touted Frederick County’s immigration enforcement program at a national conference of law enforcement professionals, a group that included Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Department of Justice invited Jenkins to speak about the 287(g) program Tuesday at the National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety in Bethesda.
Under the 287(g) agreement, sheriff’s deputies inquire about the country of origin and immigration status of all people booked into the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. They are also authorized to hold inmates on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers.
The Frederick County jail handled 1,478 ICE detainers from the program’s inception in 2008 to May 31, 2017, according to the sheriff’s office. About 60 of those people were verified as gang members, the office said.
“My goal was to go down there and reinforce ... how well [the program is] working,” Jenkins said. “It really swept away some of the misconceptions.”
Jenkins said that some of the other law enforcement personnel did not realize that 287(g) immigration enforcement takes place only at the jail, not in the streets. He also clarified that his office has no authority over the program, but instead cooperates with ICE, which is responsible for enforcing federal immigration law.
Critics at a recent demonstration against the program derided the ICE partnership as anti-immigrant and a policy that makes the immigrant community reluctant to work with law enforcement because of the fear of deportation. Jenkins has frequently responded that there was no basis for either criticism.
The presentation was an exchange of ideas, Jenkins said, and did not reflect any future policy changes. He noted, however, that with the Trump administration’s focus on immigration enforcement, “you’re going to see more and more agencies get involved with it.”
The sheriff of Jackson County, Texas, A.J. “Andy” Louderback, agreed late in 2016 to enter the 287(g) program this year, Jenkins said.
The presentation was a chance for Jenkins to chat and pose for a photo with keynote speaker Sessions, whom he had met when Sessions was a senator.
“I was honored to meet him and shake his hand,” Jenkins said. “The one takeaway from this whole summit is that this administration will support law enforcement.”
During the two-day summit, which is planned to become an annual meeting, Jenkins attended several worksessions, including one on criminal gang cases, which he said was particularly informative. He declined to go into specifics about what he learned because he considered it sensitive information.
“The whole dynamic of criminal gangs has changed,” he said. “They are gonna decimate MS-13.”
In prepared remarks, Sessions outlined the goal of the summit as facilitating cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement. Topics included ways to reduce gang activity, using intelligence to catch violent criminals, improving homicide investigations and other issues.
He took a hard-line approach to immigration enforcement in his speech, noting that in March he directed federal prosecutors to make it a priority. He also mentioned the new federal policy of charging the harshest offenses possible.
The attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment.