Live from Washington, D.C. Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Harford County, Maryland Sheriff Jeff Gahler to the microphone to discuss the benefits and successes of the 287(g) program that has been utilized since the Obama administration and the efforts made to reduce its expansion.
Leahy: We are joined by Sheriff Jeff Gahler of Harford County, Maryland. Good morning, Sheriff Gahler.
Gahler: Good morning Michael. Thank you for having us on.
Leahy: Tell me a little bit first about where Harford County is.
Gahler: We’re about 30 minutes north of Baltimore. Located geographically at about midpoint between Baltimore and Delaware along the I-95 corridor.
Leahy: Alright, good. A nice part of the country.
Gahler: Yeah, well, murder capital of the world being Baltimore City. If you could say that.
Leahy: Tell us about the problems that your county is experiencing because of illegal immigration.
Gahler: Just like every other jurisdiction across this nation, we are all suffering from the effects of illegal immigration in our nation and running for this office back as early as 2008, when I first started my first campaign to run for sheriff, we looked at a program called 287(g).
Leahy: Now let me ask you this. What did you do before you ran for sheriff?
Gahler: I was a state trooper for 28 years.
Leahy: So a career law enforcement officer. you are not a guy I’m going to mess with.
Gahler: I appreciate that. We have enough people volunteering for that. So I appreciate that. Public safety is first and foremost in anybody’s campaign running for sheriff and an elected law enforcement position. We looked at a 287(g) partnership, which is actually a program.
Leahy: Eyes are glazing over, as you say, 287(g). Tell me what this program is.
Gahler: Immigrations and Customs Enforcement actually began by President Clinton, a Democrat in 1995, has run through every presidential administration since.
It’s a partnership that allows local law enforcement correctional facilities to partner with ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement to screen those people arrested in our communities for committing other crimes.
Leahy: So let’s see. So you arrest somebody.
Gahler: We arrest somebody no matter who arrest in our county, they’re brought to our facility and we screen them to see if they’re in the country legally.
Leahy: Okay, so how do you do that?
Gahler: It’s just one more process. Anytime we arrest someone, fingerprints, photographs, you got to see if another jurisdiction wants them. It’s one more step.
Our deputies are trained by ICE and correctional deputies are trained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to do this screening. So it’s a series of questions to find out.
Leahy: It’s just questions?
Gahler: Pretty much. That’s the initial intake.
Leahy: You don’t take fingerprints?
Gahler: We do all that too. But it’s the initial screening.
Leahy: How hard is it to determine if somebody is illegal?
Gahler: They’re not hard. The deputies, the training that we get from ICE is very good. We haven’t seen anybody.
Leahy: What’s the giveaway?
Gahler: I don’t know. I’m not trained so I don’t know.
Leahy: Okay. But they figure it out.
Gahler: We’ve had hundreds since we joined the program five years ago. Under President Obama, we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people who are screened in who have committed crimes against my citizens and also were in this country illegally.
And the point of the program is those who pose a threat to national security or public safety or public safety. That’s a big one for me. Then they can be deported from our country after they serve their sentence.
Leahy: So here’s this program. You arrest people, you screen them, you find out that, well, this fellow is an illegal alien. He’s committed a crime. He’s incarcerated in your facility.
Leahy: What happens next?
Gahler: Then it becomes an ICE decision whether they’re going to seek deportation.
Leahy: ICE being, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Gahler: Yes. And I can tell you again, President Obama put us in. This has been here since 1995. Once President Trump came into office, this program and everything that has to do with immigration, of course, was stamped with that racist taboo. I was a bigot for even thinking about it.
Leahy: Hold on now. So the program is in effect. You’ve been running it since Obama.
Leahy: Since 2015. Then after President Trump is elected, now you say you’re labeled a bigot.
Gahler: The narrative. The narrative changed across the country all of a sudden.
Leahy: Do you get local press saying that about you?
Gahler: No, not locally, because locally, I think they’ve seen the results. We’ve never had lower crime in my county and the 287(g) partnership with Immigration and Customs.
Leahy: Is that a big part of it?
Gahler: It’s a big tool. It’s a big tool in our toolbox, along with proactive policing and not buying into this anti-police narrative.
Leahy: What happens to this program on January 21, 2021, the first day after the legal but not legitimate current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue comes into power?
Gahler: They slam the brakes on it. And we still participate. We still screen everyone, but they slammed the brakes on any sort of, and I think just because I was going around telling people that they had marked zero people for deportation.
We’ve had two in the last eight months, which is absurd. We have lots of people screened in illegally, but they’re taking no action against anyone.
Leahy: How many people have been screened as criminals in your county who you’ve arrested in the past eight months who you’ve determined are illegal aliens?
Gahler: Since we began we have had 135 people that they have taken action on and only two since President Biden was sworn in. But 135 in those five years out of a number somewhere like 500 that have screened in illegally. And this happening in every jurisdiction across this country whether you’re screening or not.
Leahy: What do you do with these illegal aliens who committed crimes that, according to this program, ought to be deported? You’re stuck with them. What happens with them?
Gahler: Oh, they fulfill their sentence, or they are awaiting trial, and you have to open the door. And that’s what happens across this country in cities and counties that don’t have this partnership. They open the door and the person’s back out to victimize the community further.
Leahy: In the eight months since the Biden maladministration has been in power, how many illegal aliens have you been forced to release that have committed crimes in your county?
Gahler: Only two. I don’t have the exact number of how many screened in over those eight months. But just off of the average, I would say dozens in that period.
Leahy: Dozens. And do they go out and do good things in the community after you release them having committed crimes against you?
Gahler: I’m going to assume that sounds like sarcasm, (Laughter) because absolutely, they are back to further victimize our citizens.
Leahy: You mean they’re not establishing charities for the children? They’re not giving food away to the homeless?
Gahler: They are not. And that’s an important distinction. These are not people who have come to our country to make a better life for themselves. There’s a pathway for that.
Leahy: Well, I think they have decided to make a better life for themselves.
Gahler: At our citizen’s expense. They’re not working in a restaurant abiding by all the other rules. They’re out here selling drugs, killing our loved ones, joining gangs, gangs like Ms-13. We screen them through in our process.
Leahy: How many of them have been vaccinated? (Chuckles)
Gahler: Oh, I would venture a guess at zero.
Gahler: We don’t track that as well, but our healthcare provider in the jail may know, but no information on my attention.
Leahy: My guess is none.
Gahler: Most likely. Sad.
Leahy: When you talk to the current people that are running ICE, whoever your contacts are and you say this program is not being run according to the law that was established to run the program, what do they say to you?
Gahler: Oh, they’re frustrated, too. If you talk to anyone in Immigration and Customs Enforcement they’re frustrated that they’re not being allowed to do their job and a very important job. And again, centered around the public.
Leahy: Who do they blame for it?
Gahler: Oh, this administration for sure. And I can tell you, even locally, we have fought off legislation locally in Maryland to stop our program over the last five years, because again, once President Trump came in the office, all of a sudden, this was the evilest thing.
Leahy: The legislation to stop your program, does that come in the Maryland state legislature or in your county?
Gahler: No. Our county is fully supportive.
Leahy: Your county supports what you’re doing?
Gahler: I’m close to Baltimore, but we have a very conservative county that likes to live in a place with low crime rates.
Leahy: And a safe place.
Gahler: Yes. Imagine that.
Leahy: It’s sort of odd. Who in the Maryland legislature wants to get rid of this program?
Gahler: We have the most liberal legislature in the country. Everyone thinks that it’s California, but it’s Maryland. The Democrats in the Maryland legislature have pitched this narrative forward for the last five sessions that this is a racist program. That this is indiscriminate on taking action on people.
Leahy: They have not succeeded in ending it?
Gahler: We have been very fortunate. And it’s 24 jurisdictions. There have been three of our sheriffs including me. We have 287(g) partnerships with ICE.
We’ve been very successful going to Annapolis and telling people the honesty about the program and what it does. And we’ve been able to continue it. They did pass a bill last year that no new agreements can be signed. So they’ve set the path.
Leahy: They are stuck with three counties out of 24. Twenty-four counties in Maryland?
Gahler: Twenty-three counties in Baltimore City, 24 jurisdictions. So, yeah, they won’t allow the program to expand anymore. But I don’t think this presidential administration is interested, as we’re seeing from the southern border is interested in securing our nation or keeping our citizens safe.
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