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Sheriffs meet in Hamilton to talk immigration reform

Five county sheriffs wanted to send a strong message to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday not to back pedal on an immigration reform bill they say is the best one for securing America’s borders.

The National Sheriff’s Association supports House Resolution 2278, dubbed “The SAFE Act,” which expands the role of state and local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement. It is one of several current bills on immigration reform, including Senate Bill 744, a bipartisan bill passed in June that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, in addition to provisions to secure the borders.

Boehner has previously said immigration reform isn’t a top priority.

On Wednesday, four Ohio county sheriffs and one from North Carolina wanted to let the speaker know that it should be.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones hosted a roundtable in Hamilton — Boehner’s home district — attended by Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Gray and Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson, all from Boehner’s 8th Congressional District. Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer and Rockingham County, N.C., Sheriff Sam Page, co-vice chairman of the National Sheriff’s Association Border Security and Immigration Committee, were also in attendance.

For 60 minutes the sheriffs were joined by a representative from Boehner’s office to discuss their concerns.

In a letter written Aug. 1 in response to Jones’ invitation to attend the roundtable, Boehner wrote, “I stand with you and other law enforcement officials from our region in support of H.R. 2278 and in unequivocal opposition to the massive, Obamacare-style immigration legislation backed by President Barack Obama and passed recently by the United States Senate.”

He added, “From the many conversations I’ve had with constituents at home in Butler County and throughout the Eighth Congressional District, it’s clear to me that the people of our region, like millions of other Americans nationwide, prefer that our nation’s broken immigration system be fixed through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our borders and enforcing our laws.”

Jones said Boehner’s letter is “a response we have not heard before.”

North Carolina is no different from other states throughout the country where drug and human trafficking is driven by illegal immigration, Page said.

“If we fail to secure our borders in America, every sheriff in American will become a border sheriff,” Page said.

At a June rally for immigration reform outside U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s Springfield office, Shahrzad P. Allen, an immigration attorney from Dayton, framed the argument for immigration reform as a way to reduce the nation’s deficit.

Allen said that allowing 11 million illegal immigrants to “come out of the shadows” would create citizens who pay taxes and learn English “just like the rest of us.”

Jose Sanchez, a pastor originally from Nicaragua who leads a Hispanic congregation in Springfield, said it’s “time to stop the division.”

“We are here for work, not for anything else,” Sanchez said during the June rally. “We’re here to support our families.”

Staff Writer Andrew McGinn contributed to this report.

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