Jones talks ‘workplace enforcement,’ immigration raids with acting ICE director in D.C.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones was invited to talk border security, immigration issues at the White House on Monday. STAFF FILE PHOTO
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones was invited to talk border security, immigration issues at the White House on Monday. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones in June said he has “encouraged” the federal government to raid county businesses who employ undocumented immigrants.

On Monday, the outspoken sheriff personally asked Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement, to send immigration agents to Butler County.

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“It was well worth me coming up here, and to be able to meet with the sheriffs who have the same issues,” said Jones, who traveled to Washington, D.C., Monday after being invited to attend President Donald Trump’s “Salute to the Heroes of the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection)”.

“But to be able to talk with the acting director of ICE, you can’t do that on the phone,” he said.

While he met with the acting director of ICE, Jones said he did not personally meet with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom attended the salute that also featured a panel discussion that included Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Cochise County (Ariz.) Sheriff Mark Dannels, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Vitiello.

Jones has been a loud and national voice concerning border security and illegal immigration, and has sent the president of Mexico and the federal government bills for costs the county has incurred dealing with undocumented immigrants. He also has a federal contract with ICE to house illegal immigrants for deportation at the Butler County Jail.

The sheriff was one of a few guests able to talk privately with panelists about border security and immigration issues, he said.

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While Jones wouldn’t talk specifics about his conversation with Vitiello on Monday afternoon, he said, “I was basically talking about workplace enforcement.”

When asked if he told the acting director he wanted ICE to come to Butler County to raid businesses suspected of employing illegal immigrants, Jones said, “That’s correct. I want them to come and enforce workplace enforcement.”

In June, Jones told the Journal-News he wants to see the federal government raid businesses in Butler County just as immigration officers arrested more than 100 workers at a northern Ohio gardening and greenhouse company on June 5. Jones said he’s sent the federal government a letter in 2017 asking them to send agents to Butler County, and has personally communicated with ICE officials.

“I’ve sent them a letter, and I’ve talked to them personally that we have workplaces here in this county, manufacturers, that I feel and I have been told by informants that they’re hiring illegals — and a large amount of them,” the sheriff said in June.

More than 12.5 million of those in the United States are undocumented immigrants, and according to a 2015 report by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research and Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America, Ohio had the worst record in the country on welcoming immigrants. But since then, officials from two of the state’s largest cities — Cincinnati and Dayton— have vowed to become immigrant-friendly cities.

The last major raid in Butler County happened 11 years ago when hundreds of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents descended on Koch Foods, a producer of chicken for export, food service and retail markets, in Fairfield. The August 2007 raid was the result of a two-year ICE investigation and saw 180 Koch employees questioned and more than 160 were arrested for immigration violations.

Koch Foods was fined more than $500,000 after the raid, according to the Associated Press.