It was a promise the sheriff made to the widow of slain Sacramento County deputy Danny Oliver: that he would call on lawmakers to secure the nation’s borders and document the millions of immigrants in this country illegally, one of whom stands accused of killing Oliver.
In an eight-minute video posted to YouTube this week, Sheriff Scott Jones urges President Barack Obama to take action and create “meaningful immigration reform.”
For Jones, it’s the start of a bigger conversation the sheriff hopes to have about immigration law, which, he said, was given greater gravitas when a Mexican national, who had twice been deported from the U.S., allegedly killed two law enforcement officers in a daylong ordeal that led police over 30 miles in one of the biggest manhunts in Sacramento history.
“Being in this political office with a very large constituency in the capital of California not only gives me the ability to have a political voice and platform, but gives me the responsibility to use it to speak out on these issues,” Jones said in an interview Wednesday. “There were two real main purposes. One, of course, was a direct appeal to the president. I also wanted it to be a bit of a call to action for others. I know other people feel the same way I do. … Let’s create a movement.”
The White House did not immediately respond to the virtual letter from Jones. The president was expected to announce a widely anticipated immigration order Thursday.
Kevin Johnson, immigration expert and dean of the UC Davis School of Law, said Wednesday that there’s nothing the president could do that would have prevented Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamontes from committing the crimes with which he’s been charged.
Monroy-Bracamontes, authorities have said, was convicted on drug charges in Arizona between 1996 and 2001 and twice returned to the U.S. after being deported. He’s used multiple identities and obtained a driver’s license in Utah, where he had been living with his wife, Janelle Marquez Monroy, before traveling to Sacramento nearly three weeks ago. As a convicted felon, Monroy-Bracamontes was barred from owning weapons. But he allegedly used an AR-15 assault rifle and a 9 mm pistol in a series of shootings and carjackings that began in the parking lot of a Motel 6 on Arden Way in Sacramento and ended in Auburn, where he and Monroy, were ultimately arrested.
Monroy-Bracamontes and his wife remain jailed in separate counties on charges of murder, attempted murder and carjacking. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has requested that Monroy-Bracamontes be turned over to federal custody after his case is resolved so ICE can execute his third deportation.
“This video is making political hay out of a horrible human tragedy,” Johnson said. “Mr. Monroy-Bracamontes would have never been eligible for deferred action or any of these programs that could provide a path to citizenship. … The sheriff is supposed to be enforcing the law in California, not telling the president what federal immigration policy should be.”
The sheriff’s video had amassed nearly 14,000 views and more than 600 thumbs-up and 34 thumbs-down ratings by the end of the day Wednesday.
“It’s not just about ensuring the safety of American citizens; it’s about ensuring the safety of the undocumented community,” Jones told The Bee. “Guest work programs, pathway to citizenship, any number of the visa programs we have in this country – I’m a fan of all of them. But let’s do something that addresses all of the undocumented immigrants in this country, not just something that makes us feel better and we can use as a talking point for the next round of elections.”
Jones said he singled out Obama because the president is the only “singular person” with the power to influence, raise awareness and enact change on a massive scale in Washington. In the video, he says Obama is “singularly responsible for the hands-off policy that exists in Homeland Security and its subsidiaries, including customs and border protection.”
But, he said, he’s not letting the Republicans and Democrats in Congress off the hook. They, too, failed to pass policy that would enable the government to better track and document the more than 11.3 million illegal immigrants already living in this country. Of those, 22 percent reside in California, according to the Pew Research Center.
The president’s announcement Thursday is expected to introduce a plan that could affect immigrants who have been illegal residents of the U.S. for a number of years. It would likely take aim at families in which some members are U.S. citizens and others are not and could become the most significant protection offered to unauthorized immigrants since 1986, according to Pew.
“This amnesty or deferred action that the president is contemplating, it does nothing to make America safer, it does nothing to make the undocumented population safer,” Jones said in an interview. “It takes a segment of the immigrant population and it qualitatively decides that those people have greater value. That those people are better, safer, whatever than the rest of the 12 million. So, rather than meaningful immigration reform that would address all 12 million folks in some meaningful way, we’ll have divided that group and said this portion can have an enhanced status, while the rest of them are pushed back into the shadows. We don’t need them in the shadows. I want to take all those folks out of the shadows.”
Blaming Obama for being too soft on immigration, Johnson said, is short-sighted and inaccurate. Since he was elected president in 2008, the president has overseen more deportations than any of his predecessors. The administration has focused much of its efforts on criminals. In 2012 and 2013, ICE said it had deported 440,000 people who had previously been convicted of a crime – about 60 percent of all deportations during that time.
In addition to Oliver, Monroy-Bracamontes is also accused of killing Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr. during his crime spree on Oct. 24. But Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner declined to join Jones in calling for action Wednesday.
Jones said he’s working on garnering support among local and national law enforcement agencies, as well as their constituents.
Bee reporter Bill Lindelof contributed to this report.
Call The Bee’s Marissa Lang at (916)321-1038. Follow her on Twitter at @Marissa_Jae.