From Christopher C. Boardman, candidate for Harford County Sheriff:
Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler’s partner in a deportation scheme between the federal government and the local sheriff’s office will no longer be working for ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency which has been working busily to deport undocumented immigrants.
In the fall of 2016 Gahler co-signed a joint memorandum with ICE’s Thomas Homan to establish a program in Harford County in which sheriff deputies screen county detention center detainees to determine their immigration status and to assist ICE in their deportation if determined to be deportable. The program has become controversial on a number of counts among immigration advocates, but it is also controversial among some law enforcement advocates because it would seem to discourage immigrants from calling the police for help because such calls could lead to the discovery of illegal immigrants in a detainee’s family, community or self that would have the effect of breaking apart families and separating parents from children because of deportation.
The Harford sheriff’s collaboration with ICE is only one of as few as six agreements nationwide between ICE and local law enforcement agencies. The only other nearby agency to participate is the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department.
Acting ICE Director Homan’s departure from ICE itself its fraught with questions. Harford County Sheriff Public Information officer Christine Kahler pointed out that “after 33 years of law enforcement service and a distinguished career” Homan “announced his retirement, not his resignation. At this time we do not expect any changes to the operations of the 2887 g program,” she added.
Whether Homan retired or resigned is a question. He was elevated to acting director last fall but the Trump Administration ran into resistance getting him confirmed as permanent director by the U.S. Senate, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Homan reportedly stayed on as interim secretary at the request of White House chief of staff John Kelly, but because of the confirmation delay was being forced to give up his title of acting director. He also had a “tense relationship” with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who had reportedly “sidelined” Homan from key meetings.
“Mr. Homan wanted Ms. Nielsen to move ahead with his suggested policies including the separation of children from their parents when they cross the border so they can be held in detention,” said the Wall Street Journal.
There is no question Mr. Homan was effective in what he was doing. He increased immigrant arrests by 40 percent, which prompted Lynn Tramate, deportation defense coordinator for America’s Voice to call Homan “a guy who really seemed to to love breaking apart families and bragging about it on Fox News.”
Recently BBC News interviewed families separated at the U.S. – Mexican border and depicted hardships of people enduring family isolation and difficult reunion efforts. Many of the children and parents had endured years of these conditions.
It is estimated that in the first quarter of 2018 ICE deported 56,710 immigrants, 46 percent of whom had not committed crimes. ICE expects to deport 209,000 in all of 2018, according to an article by Justin Rohrlich of The Daily Beast.
Just how much of a role Harford County is playing in the ICE deportation pipeline is not clear. Ms. Kahler said ten correctional deputies attended the ICE training “to conduct screenings on all individuals being processed into the facility for incarceration…This is a secondary duty that is completed in addition to and in conjunction with the correctional deputy’s primary assignment.”
According to the agreement signed by Sheriff Gahler and ICE’s Homan, Harford County taxpayers pay for the deputies to do ICE’s work while ICE pays for the materials and supplies.
“The Harford County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for the personnel expenses including but not limited to salaries and benefits, local transportation and official issue material,” declares the Memorandum of Understanding between Gahler and Homan. While ICE is to provide a computer and other hardware, the sheriff’s office (HCSO) will provide cabling and power upgrades, administrative office supplies and security equipment such as handcuffs, leg restraints and flexi-cuffs.
“HCSO will provide at no cost to ICE an office within participating HCSO facilities from which ICE supervising employees can work.
“The HCSO will provide statistical and aggregated arrest data to ICE as requested by ICE. The HCSO will also provide specific tracking data and/or any information documents or evidence related to the circumstances of a particular arrest upon request…HCSO will be responsible and bear the costs of participating HCSO personnel with regard to…personal expenses incurred by death, injury or incidents giving rise to liability…” the agreement concludes.
When asked how many people have been screened by the HCSO on behalf of ICE, Ms. Kahler said all such questions are referred to ICE. Indeed, the memorandum provides for this. An attempt to reach an ICE spokesperson was not successful before completion of this article.
As for personnel costs incurred by HCSO on behalf of ICE, Ms. Kahler was similarly opaque: “Extrapolating out the cost of deputies to provide the screening is not feasible. All other costs associated with the program are paid by ICE.”
One thing is clear about ICE is that it does not deport all convicted criminals. According to the Daily Beast, Jakiw Palij was convicted as an ex-Nazi guard from Poland. He purportedly escorted some 6,000 Jews to the Trawniki forced labor camp in Poland during World War II. In 1949 he emigrated to the U.S., where he obtained citizenship under false pretenses.
He was since convicted of his Nazi activities and stripped of his citizenship in 2004, but ICE declines to deport him, perhaps because of his advanced age of 94. Also the governments of Ukraine, Poland and Germany declined to accept him.