HAMILTON — Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones’ has taken his stiff, and sometimes controversial, stance on illegal immigration to a whole new level.
His latest plan: Sue Mexico.
Yes, the outspoken sheriff, who wants to pass an Arizona-like immigration law in Ohio and once sent the federal government a $70,000 bill for the undocumented immigrants housed in his jail, is now looking into the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against the Mexican government and its president, Felipe Calderon.
The lawsuit, which would likely be filed in federal court, is in regards to “the drugs coming into the United States, particularly Butler County,” Jones said Friday. Talk of the lawsuit surfaced during the same week a regional drug task force intercepted a record 268 pounds of marijuana traveling from Mexico into Butler County.
“We’re in the worst recession I’ve seen in my lifetime, and if something has to give, I’d rather it be the Mexican government that pays for this,” Jones said.
The sheriff noted the lawsuit is just an idea at this point — one he would only pursue if it could be done pro bono.
This wouldn’t be the sheriff’s first attempt at recouping local tax dollars spent on detaining illegal immigrants. In addition to the federal government, Jones sent bills “for millions of dollars” to the Mexican government for costs related to housing illegal immigrants and seizing drugs coming into the county.
The lawsuit would ask for Mexico to “help pay for incarceration of these people that are in the community, and what it costs the police to arrest these people,” Jones said of the Mexican citizens here illegally.
Jones said he doesn’t know of specific assets owned by Mexico, but believes it’s highly likely they have some in the United States. He said he’s gathering legal advice right now and plans to speak with other jurisdictions — including sheriffs around the nation — about joining him and making it a class-action lawsuit.
Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper could not be reached for comment Friday about his views on the lawsuit.
Shelly Bromberg, an associate professor of Latin American Studies at Miami University Hamilton, said a lawsuit could harm a growing relationship between the U.S. and Mexican governments.
“I think the Mexican government is equally concerned about what’s happening on the border,” Bromberg said. “I’m not sure how this is going to contribute to strengthening our dialogue with the Mexican government and combat this problem on both sides of the border.”
State Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton, said it’s a “novel idea.”
“It maybe an idea that could work again to put pressure on the federal government to close up the border,” said Combs, who has partnered with Jones on the idea of an Arizona-like immigration law for Ohio. “You’re not going to close it 100 percent, but you can slow it down.”
By Michael D. Pitman
October 16, 2010