7/19/2014 6:20:00 AM
News Staff Writer
REGION — Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis recently joined Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson on a trip to McAllen, Texas, to get a better look at the immigration issues that are currently facing the nation.
“This was really an opportunity for a fact-finding mission to see what was going on at the border,” Sheriff Evangelidis said while sitting in the airport waiting for his flight home. “People are being relocated up to Massachusetts. Now, we are a defacto border state and I feel that we should all know what is going on.”
Sheriff Evangelidis said he saw many flaws at the border as far as the United States policy is concerned.
“It was obvious that there is such a failed policy in this country that is driving the entire situation right now,” he said. “We have adopted a policy where if you get to American soil, you are essentially processed and then released.”
In speaking with local sheriffs, Texas safety patrol and customs and border patrol, the sheriff said the number of people coming in and being processed has already doubled last year’s numbers, and it is only July.
“Over 215,000 people are processed at this center we visited,” he said. “They basically volunteer themselves to be processed. They are then turned over to ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — who bring them to airports, bus stations or train stations. They are given a form that says they have to appear in front of an officer in approximately 90 days and then released. They are basically given free ability to travel in the U.S.”
Local officials informed the sheriff that 99 percent of those people do not appear 90 days later.
Sheriff Evangelidis said that in conjunction with America’s failed policies, the Mexican drug cartel is adding fuel to the fire.
“The drug cartel is exploiting people and America’s failed policies to convince people to do work for them,” he said. “They are promoting America’s lack of enforcement to tell people that now is the time to come over the border. They are basically making billions of dollars and leaving the problems in our laps.”
Sheriff Evangelidis and Sheriff Hodgson were also brought on a tour of the border as part of their fact-finding trip.
“We got to experience it firsthand,” said Sheriff Evangelidis. “We saw it from the Rio Grande River and also an aerial view. We also met with border volunteers. I think they believe they are being unfairly blamed. The people we spoke to were working very hard and using all available resources. They just have no enforcement of existing laws behind them.”
The sheriff said the federal government needs to begin working on a solution to the illegal immigration issue.
“I think we need a multipronged approach,” he said. “First, we need to secure our borders. Second, we need to enforce our existing laws and third, we need to hold people accountable inside our country, such as employers that continue to promote working illegally.”
In Worcester County, the sheriff said he plans on informing the residents in his district about the ongoing issues facing both the state and the country as a whole.
“We’re going to speak with the Sheriff’s Association about what we learned,” he said. “We will also keep tabs on what is going on here to see if there is any increase related to the issue and come up with ways to combat that.”