Butler Co. Sheriff Asks State Leaders For Immigration Reform

Instead of waiting for lawmakers to reform immigration, people in Ohio may be able to vote on the issues themselves if a local sheriff has his way.

FOX19's Chris Shaw has more on this controversial idea from the Butler County Sheriff.

From the same sheriff who put up billboards and a sign outside his jail warning people about illegal immigrants comes this.

A letter he sent to state lawmakers Wednesday that details a new plan. A plan some people can't wait to vote for.

"He's taking every angle I think you can take in regards to this issue," said Bill Barnhill with Citizens for Legal Communities.

Which is why you're seeing smiles right now at the Citizens for Legal Communities Meeting.

The group formed last year after Kevin Barnhill was murdered in a Mason bar parking lot by illegal immigrants. Since then this small group has been begging state lawmakers to get tough on illegals.

Wednesday, Butler County sheriff Richard Jones finally got sick of waiting for action from the capital.

"We're trying to get this on the ballot, to be a ballot issue. So we can go around them. If they don't want to do what the people elected them to do, we'll go around them," said Jones.

He said as much in a letter saying he's working with a national immigration reform group to get signatures for a ballot referendum.

But there's one problem.

"I don't even really know if that's constitutional," said Ana Mallen with LULCAC.

Neither does the sheriff right now.

But in light of busts like this summer's raid at Koch Foods, he wants voters to decide if local police can enforce federal immigration law, and if employers should face tougher penalties for hiring illegals.

"Local governments have tried to create ordinances to enforce immigration law. And those ordinances have been challenged in the courts in different areas of the country and always the courts have decided that immigration law falls to the federal government," said Mallen.

Which is why some say this plan is just the sheriff grandstanding.

"You call it what you like, this isn't for sissies. You have to be strong, you have to be willing to stand up and I get hired and fired every four years. My constituents like what I have to say," said Jones.

Kevin Barnhill's father not only likes it, he and his group are determined to see immigration change no matter how it happens.