The issues of illegal immigration continue to plague our country. I have been employed in law enforcement for over 40 years, with much of that time spent in Umatilla and Morrow counties.
Since I have been sheriff, I have been invited several times to visit the southern U.S. border to see first-hand the crime issues along the border states, issues of drug running, human trafficking, the extreme violence of the drug cartels and gangs. I’ve visited the ranches with little or no border security and spoke with the people who live there with the constant threat of armed violence. I’ve seen the evidence of the rapes, robberies and murders of the people who are victimized as they make their way to the United States. I’ve attended the daily briefings of the multi-agency task forces.
Border sheriffs have an expression: “What happens at the border doesn’t stay at the border.” All the issues of drug smuggling, violence, human trafficking, illegal immigration and cartel expansion is carried throughout our country. Morrow County experiences the same type of issues other jurisdictions experience, except at a smaller scale. The large marijuana grows in south Morrow County were known to be controlled by the Mexican cartels here, too.
Who is responsible for most of the blame for all these years of our broken immigration system? It’s not simple, but the bottom line is that both political parties are responsible. When the one party was in control, it was building, expanding, making money and finding labor. It was about new businesses, larger plants and where to find the labor force to fill those new fields and factories.
When the other party came to power it was about political clout. The political party was viewed as the party of the little people — the disadvantaged and the new arrivals. The immigrants who were able to get legal status and then citizenship if they were lucky leaned toward this political party. Our political divide grew as our parties traded the lead back and forth. Some states were becoming involved in the federal government issue of immigration law.
The system has been allowed to go unfixed for so long that it appears to be unfixable.
Next week, the White House has invited sheriffs from each state, including myself, to come and talk about their experiences on issues of immigration and how it has impacted their communities in their local jurisdictions. The president is expected to host the group and wants to hear from the sheriffs as he goes forward in finding solutions to our broken immigration system.
Perhaps he may hear a few new ideas on working to repair our broken immigration system.
Kenneth W. Matlack
Morrow County Sheriff