NC sheriff marshals opposition to Gang of 8

Font Size:

A North Carolina sheriff is sounding the alarm about immigration enforcement and calling on other law enforcement officials and lawmakers to oppose the Senate immigration bill.

Rockingham Sherriff Sam Page has been a vocal opponent of the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform plan, saying it lacks a focus and real solutions to immigration enforcement.

Page, co-chair of the National Sheriffs Association’s Border Security and Immigration Committee, has taken his message to the White House, halls of Congress, and embarked on a letter-writing campaign against the legislation.

He and nearly 40 other North Carolina sheriffs have signed onto a coalition letter against the Senate immigration bill, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement union head Chris Crane, the Citizenship and Immigration Services union head Kenneth Palinkas, and dozens of other sheriffs across the country.

Page explained that one of the reasons he felt the need to advocate for immigration enforcement was what he has been seeing in his North Carolina county — hundreds of miles from the border.

“We were starting to make arrests in the past several years of persons that were associated with the Mexican drug cartel in North Carolina — in my county,” Page said in an interview with The Daily Caller. “And I said when we can arrest 12 people who are directly associated with the Mexican drug cartels, lots of drugs, lots of cash, lots of AR-15 rifles, I said, ‘You know what? We’ve got to do something. Are we really protecting our borders the way we should be?’”

“I’ve always felt Homeland Security begins at our borders. And if we fail to protect the borders of our country — this country, America — if we fail to protect our borders, each sheriff in America will become a border sheriff,” he said.

North Carolina has one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants in the country, Page explained.

“Prior to [the Real ID Act] North Carolina was known for the best place to get a drivers license: If you needed a drivers license and were illegal, this is where you would come,” he said. “So it was kind of a magnet. I’m sure the agriculture business and employers trying to employ low wage earners used it as an opportunity to get workers.”

“Some of the magnets that we provide, the work opportunities and, of course, that drivers license opportunity, drew people to this area,” Page added.

In addition to signing onto the law enforcement coalition letter, which was sent to every member of Congress, Page has sent his own letters to North Carolina Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, calling on them to heed the concerns laid out in the coalition letter and take additional input from North Carolina sheriffs.

“This flawed proposal would also provide immediate effective legal status and work authorization to millions of unlawful/undocumented immigrants and visa overstays while further restricting future enforcement,” he wrote. “I would be eager for an opportunity to discuss this letter and legislation with you. While the ‘Gang of Eight’ chose to exclude law enforcement input, I hope that you will provide the sheriffs of your state a chance to have their voices heard on this immigration proposal — including the opportunity to collaborate on any floor amendments.”

Page told TheDC that his goal is to recruit at least 1,000 more sheriffs across the country to sign onto the coalition letter before the Senate takes a vote on the legislation.

He added that the issue is not political but about the security of the country.

“Border security to me is about national security and it should not be about politics,” Page added. “I’ve asked sheriffs, I don’t care what their party is, when we talk as sheriffs we talk as sheriffs — we don’t talk as Democrats, Republicans, independents, we talk as sheriffs. It could be a sheriff from North Carolina, a sheriff from Arizona, or a sheriff from California, we all understand each other because we are all doing the same work.”

According to Page, immigration enforcement, particularly at the border, should be the No. 1 priority — not mass legalization of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the county,

“The sheriffs along our southern boarder of the United States, the way I look at it, they have been neglected, they have been crying out for help for years and the administrations have just not stepped up to listen to what they are saying,” he said. “And I would hope that this Congress this time would pay attention and listen. Instead of people making jokes about putting alligators in a moat, they ought to be saying what can we do to better protect?”

Follow Caroline on Twitter