Sheriff in social media post

Following is a statement from Lynn Tramonte, Director of the Ohio Immigrant Alliance

Cleveland Heights — Bless his heart. Somebody fire up the Facebook Live. The self-styled “Joe Arpaio of Ohio” is feeling left out of the immigrant demonization debate.

In 2021, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones’ ICE “civil detention” contract was cancelled after brave immigrants exposed racism, physical assault, and medical neglect by Corrections Officers and filed a major civil rights lawsuit. Having lost access to immigrants he can abuse, Jones thinks he’s found a new way to reach them. He wants Ohio to pass a law making it a felony to be in the state without a visa, so that he can put immigrants in his jail again.

You can’t look at someone and know they are undocumented. There is a federal civil immigration court in Cleveland that’s responsible for deciding who can remain in the U.S. and who can be deported. It’s not the county courts’ (or sheriffs’) job.

But for this “man of the law,” following the law doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. Jones and his deputies are battling numerous lawsuits for physical abuse, racism, inhumane incarceration practices, medical and mental health neglect, and violations of constitutional and civil rights—most brought by people who are not immigrants. Jones has refused to let his deputies carry Narcan to save the lives of people dealing with addiction, and allowed many die in his jail by denying them help during their withdrawal.

I will never cease to be inspired by the dozens of immigrants who courageously spoke up about the violence they were experiencing while detained in Jones’ jail, despite the potential consequences. They detailed multiple, dangerous practices in a public letter “To Anyone Who Will Listen.” Together with the Norris Law Group, they filed a civil rights lawsuit after corrections officers physically assaulted Ahmed Adem and Bayong Brown Bayong, two men detained there for ICE in 2020. Mory Keita, a crucial witness in this lawsuit, was deported shortly after the suit was filed. But he and others have not stayed silent.

Read more about these men’s bravery in Broken Hope: Deportation and the Road Home Chapter 3, “Change Behind Bars.” Listen to Demba share his experience inside BCJ here. A Cincinnati father, Demba was deported by the Trump administration.

I would question the wisdom of copying another bad idea from Jones’ disgraced, unelectable, and utterly irrelevant role model, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. But Jones isn’t doing this to be smart. It’s just the latest embarrassing publicity stunt from a sheriff who love the headlines and hates feeling sidelined.