An Ohio lawman energized by Donald Trump has a warning for illegal immigrants and anyone who hires them: He’s watching you.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones on Tuesday announced that he’s assigning one of his detectives to the immigration beat, where the officer will field public complaints and tips about “illegals” and businesses that employ them. On Twitter, Jones urged his constituents to tattle on potential violators.
Jones has long terrified his county’s Hispanic residents. In 2006, he commissioned a series of billboards alerting citizens, “Hire an illegal. Break the law!” and posted an “illegal aliens here” street sign, with an arrow pointing toward the jail. The rabble-rousing cop also launched a boycott of businesses accused of hiring undocumented workers.
Last year, he made headlines for sending a bill to Mexico’s president demanding a $900,000 reimbursement for 3,000 Mexican nationals held in Butler County’s jail over a decade—a gambit that reportedly put him on a drug cartel hit list.
The sheriff admits to being as relentless on immigration as Trump, whose incendiary warnings of Mexican “rapists,” diseased immigrants and “anchor babies” have only bolstered his conservative fan base.
Jones’s rhetoric was enough to get Team Trump’s attention. After Jones issued a press release last month supporting the GOP blowhard’s tough stance, Trump’s people contacted him to discuss setting up a meeting.
“People are fired up,” Jones told The Daily Beast, adding that Trump is giving “a voice to all of us out there that have been crying and begging for help.”
“You would think Ohio... wouldn’t have an illegal immigrant problem, but we do,” Jones said. “In this county, we’ve had people killed, molested by illegals. Not thousands of them, but just one is too much. Our governor and elected officials do nothing.”
Jones said that within five minutes of announcing his initiative on social media, a citizen called the sheriff’s office with a tip.
“If you’re a builder, a contractor… I can’t enforce federal law, but I can enforce state law,” he said. “If you’re lying and cheating so you can hire these people… and it’s state paperwork, it is a violation and you will be charged.”
“We’re going to focus on… anything to do with illegals who are committing crimes,” added Jones, whose 160 officers patrol the 360,000-population county, which is between Cincinnati and Dayton.
The sheriff—who last fall got The Daily Show treatment for claiming illegal immigrants receive free computers and car payments—went on to accuse migrants of taking jobs from legal residents.
“You can’t find dishwashers here, or people to bus tables, landscapers—it all used to be done with local people,” Jones said. “[The jobs] have all been taken over by illegals. Drywallers, bricklayers. They’ve taken away jobs.”
Still, Jones claims he declined an invitation to fly to New York to meet Trump. He’d rather the billionaire candidate visit Ohio. “I’ve got some things I want to communicate with him,” Jones told The Daily Beast. “I want to look him in the eyeballs. Don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity, but we’ll see.”
He added, “I want to talk to him about immigration, about drugs, about heroin [coming from across the border]. I’ve got 15 sheriffs that want to meet with him in Ohio, maybe more. That’s quite a few.”
It remains to be seen whether Jones’s love for Trump could blossom into an alliance. Despite his many pro-Trump Twitter posts, Jones said he hasn’t officially endorsed The Donald. When asked about Trump’s use of pejorative terms like “anchor babies,” Jones went to bat.
“I use the term ‘anchor babies,’” Jones told The Daily Beast. “I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not afraid of it. I talk tough and call it like it is, and I get 80 percent of the vote every time I run. I knew [Trump] would do well before he did.”
“I’ve been criticized, I’ve been called a racist, a bigot for using the words ‘illegal aliens, anchor babies,’ blah, blah, blah,” Jones said. “Hey, sorry that it offends you. But that’s what I said and I’m sticking to my word. I won’t apologize… period.”
Immigration activists don’t take Jones’s comments lightly.
Last summer, 40 people, including children of men who were deported, protested outside his office. “[Jones has] made it clear he doesn’t care about illegals,” one protester told a local TV station. “A lot of people feel his reasoning is wrong and feel it’s backed by racism.”
In 2013, six young demonstrators from North Carolina were arrested after they chained themselves together and blocked the entrance to the county jail, which is one of a few in Ohio that houses illegal immigrants for the federal government.