BUTLER COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - A sheriff from southwestern Ohio who is known for being outspoken on immigration will be among a small group of the nation's sheriffs attending a White House "salute to the heroes" event Monday honoring federal immigration and border patrol agents.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones tells FOX19 NOW he will be join about seven other sheriffs for a tribute to two law enforcement agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"The Salute to the Heroes of ICE and CBP" is set for 1:30 p.m. in the East Wing.
After, Jones said he and other sheriffs have been invited to join President Donald Trump and his senior administration officials for a roundtable discussion about immigration.
"I am honored to be invited to the White House to support ICE and CBP and to have input with the President and/or his staff and ICE to discuss securing our nation's borders and protecting our citizens from illegal aliens from coming into this country," Jones said Sunday.
"I stand in support of the President of the United States in securing our borders and we sheriffs will do whatever we can do to support the President of the United States in this critical task to protect our country especially from illegal aliens with criminal records."
The event comes amid controversy over the Trump administration's zero-tolerance border policy with hundreds of children without their parents after being separated at the border.
The issue will remain under much debate as the mid-term elections approach in November.
Jones said Sunday people who break the law in the U.S. are separated from their families when they are jailed, and it should be no different for those who illegally enter the country.
He elaborated Monday in a live phone interview with FOX19 NOW Morning News just before he boarded his plane.
"There's kids that are separated from their parents (who are) U.S. citizens. You're in the military, you are separated from your family. You're in jail, you are separated from your family," he said. "It's an issue that developed under President Obama and President Bush. It just continued on with President Trump and they are addressing that issue.
"My concern is securing the border, building the wall and keeping these illegal drugs from coming in the United States, workplace enforcement. I don't know that I get to discuss those things or what he or his administrators from the White House are going to discuss but we're all going to be together, law enforcement from other states and it's a small group and we're going to be there honoring and supporting ICE and what they do and risk their lives everyday. Very proud to be called to the White House."
Jones is considering returning to Washington D.C. next month. He said he has been asked to attend a sheriffs' rally on Capital Hill demanding congressional action on illegal immigration.
The event is sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Jones was the first Midwestern sheriff to raise the issue of illegal immigration, more than a decade ago.
The outspoken 41-year law enforcement veteran who is in his fourth term has twice traveled to the Mexican border in Arizona to witness the impact of illegal immigration at its forefront.
Back in Butler County, Jones said he saw firsthand how illegal immigrants crowded jails, schools and social service programs, costing taxpayers and local governments millions of dollars they don't have.
Jones has billed the Mexican government for costs for all the illegal immigrants he's housed at the county jail, a figure he says now totals more than $1 million.
He also has repeatedly urged ICE to conduct undocumented immigrant raids at companies in his county, similar to one at a northeastern Ohio meat supplier earlier this year.
He even had his deputies raid a construction site in 2007 as part of an "immigration investigation" and rounded up more than 20 Hispanic workers. That ultimately resulted in the county agreeing to pay a $100,000 settlement to Luis Rodriguez, an undocumented drywall worker who was deported as a result of the raid, along with his family.
But by the following year, the sheriff's office earned the authority to target and detain illegal residents.
Under 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, police can enter into agreements with ICE to enforce federal immigration laws.
Until 2013, the program included "task force" agreements permitting participating police to arrest suspected immigration law violators and "jail enforcement" agreements.
State prisons and local jails also could try to identify illegals by interviewing them and checking their biographical details against Department of Homeland databases.
Currently, however, only jail enforcement agreements exist.
The Obama administration halted "task force" agreements at the end of 2012 amid racial profiling accusations and fears they negatively impacted police-community relationships.
Trump pledged during his presidential campaign to bring back and expand 287(g).
Just days after being sworn into office, he signed an executive order reinstating it.
His order has yet to be enforced, however, while Congress debates changes to make first.
That has left Jones and other sheriffs in limbo as they wait on Congress to resolve what he calls an important tool for local communities.
"It sends a message that the locals have the authority to enforce immigration laws in our communities," Jones told FOX19 NOW during an interview in June as he attended the National Sheriffs' Association Annual Conference in New Orleans.
Congress, he said at the time, "can't agree on anything" and has not authorized it and continues to debate it, along with the overall issue of immigration enforcement in the nation.
"We are frustrated with the slowness of Congress in being able to resolve anything, plus this issue. We must secure our borders. We need Congress to get off their a-- and move legislation that will protect this country, period."
The National Sheriffs' Association has issued a position paper supporting the expansion of the 287(g) plan.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities of Chiefs Association have both issued statements opposing police participation in immigration enforcement.
It also has been opposed by the ACLU, American Immigration Council and Southern Center for Human Rights.