Sheriff Lamphere attends national conference about immigration reform
BELLE FOURCHE –– Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C. focused on immigration reform and announced the rolling out of a National Sheriff’s Association crowdfunding website to raise money for the funding and construction of a wall along the country’s southern border.
“Since Congress has refused to act on the security aspects of immigration reform and thus done nothing to stop the flow of drugs into our neighborhoods, to stop children from being exploited by sex and human traffickers, nor to stop transnational gangs from terrorizing our schools and communities, America’s sheriffs have decided to come together and take the safety of our citizens into our own hands,” Lamphere said. “We will not sit by while our neighborhoods get more dangerous and the people we’ve sworn to protect face greater risk.”
Lamphere and a group of 44 sheriffs from around the nation attended a conference funded by the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform earlier this month.
“They set up appointments with all of our congressional district members - (Kristi) Noem, (John) Thune, and (Mike) Rounds - and then we had a round table talk at the White House,” he said.
Lamphere had first-hand experiences related to illegal immigration three years ago when he had the opportunity to go down to the border and sit in on a ranchers’ forum in Sierra Vista, Ariz., where the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office was the hosting agency.
“We (sheriff’s department staff from around the U.S.) went down to the border with ranchers, took two charter buses, it was a real eye opener to what’s going on down there and how much traffic is coming across (the border between the U.S. and Mexico),” he said. “At the time, they (the government under the Obama administration) weren’t enforcing or controlling the border.”
That has changed, Lamphere said.
“I don’t think we need to reform anything,” he said. “We just need to enforce the laws that are already in place for immigration. Our country still lets more people in than any other country in the world through the process of applying through residency.”
Lamphere said the country has lost ground in the last 20 years related to immigration.
“And we’ve been victims to things over the last 20 years within our borders,” he said. “So it was a good thing to bring us together (for the conference).”
Lamphere said immigration issues don’t only affect the southern states; even areas like Butte County have suffered repercussions.
“We have illegals (illegal immigrants) in Butte County,” he said. “I’d be naive to say we didn’t have a problem with it.”
Over the years, Lamphere said, the county has dealt with issues related to illegal immigrants, typically of a transient nature, sometimes involved with transporting drugs through the county.
“They came here to commit a crime and they get caught, and it’s a problem,” he said.
During the trip, Lamphere said, the sheriffs were meeting with department heads with homeland security, border patrol, immigrations and customs enforcement, and various cabinet members when suddenly the room went quiet and the group got an unexpected surprise.
“A couple of people came to the doorway and then Vice President (Mike) Pence came in and walked into the room,” he said. “I was seated on a corner (of a table) and he (Pence) walked up to me and thanked me for being a sheriff and doing my job. It was an honor.”
Pence spoke to the sheriffs as a group and later took a photo with the vice president.
About 40 minutes later after Pence left and the group was refocusing on the material at hand, they got word that the President Donald Trump asked if the group would be willing head to the White House for a photo opportunity with him.
“We wrapped up what we were doing there and everybody walked down and went through a different level of security and walked over to the White House,” Lamphere said. “He (Trump) addressed us all and talked about our work and how much he supports law enforcement.”
Trump’s support shows in his policies, Lamphere said.
“I think we’ve got a president that respects the law, just not law enforcement, he respects the law of the United States,” he said. “It’s good to know we have that support.”
Then, another surprise.
“After the photo, there was a lot of reporters there, he was asked about the Op-Ed article ... and you got to see the real fiery side of Trump right there,” Lamphere said. “It was immediate. Initially, he turned around and addressed us as sheriffs and said ’Can you believe this? The failing New York Times will come to the White House and throw some gutless article that no one wants to put their name on and they’ll (the New York Times will) run it and that’s why their paper is failing ... he emphasized that they’re failing.”
“He really came back with some good remarks, though, as to ‘Why isn’t the media reporting the positive things (the Trump administration has done),’” he said. “He (Trump) pulled out a slip from his coat and he went though seven or eight bullet lines of positive things, but why isn’t the media reporting the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, the economy is the strongest as it’s been.”
“The media don’t want to report anything positive; they just want to report rumors,” Lamphere said. “And he really lit into them. It was kind of good to see.”
The ironic part about the experience, Lamphere said, was that he and others present that day watched the news reports back, the video didn’t show that portions of the briefing when Trump pointed out the positive things going on.
“A few people wrote about it (in articles about the event),” Lamphere said. “It’s kind of funny.”
It was a surprise to Lamphere and others present when what was supposed to be a photo opportunity with the president and a chance to get to meet Trump face-to-face turned into a “gotcha” news moment.
“And we applauded when he’d bring those things up,” he said. “It was a different experience in the way that it was reality. It was a surprise that we got invited to the White House to get a picture with him; I think it shows his (Trump’s) level of respect for law enforcement.”
Although Lamphere didn’t get to speak with Trump directly, he was happy to have the opportunity to hear from him.
Lamphere could be seen in the background, behind the president, of many of the news reports about the incident.
“I had a lot of people (saying to him), ‘I seen you on the news,’” Lamphere laughed.
For more information about the sheriff’s association crowdfunding project, visit www.sheriffswall.org.
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