BONITA SPRINGS — If you don’t fix a leaky sink, eventually you’re going to have a big mess on your hands.
That’s how Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott related the problem of illegal immigration to members of the Republican Club of Bonita and Estero during a meeting Thursday night at the Worthington Country Club.
“We’ve had a leak for many years in this country; it’s called the border,” Scott said.
A vocal Republican, Scott is adamant about the mess illegal immigration has become.
“As a nation, we let the leak go, and we didn’t fix it,” he said. “Now we have damage; we have flooding. We have a problem.”
Drug dealers and terrorists have begun using the same entry method as those who have come for years in search of a better life across the border.
Narco-terrorism was the topic of training Scott received at the FBI Academy last year. He said much of the problem we now have with human trafficking also stems from illegal immigration.
While most illegal immigrants simply come for a higher paying job, others enter, and reenter, with more sinister motives, Scott said. And even those who don’t cause problems are still breaking the law.
“Being here illegally is criminal,” Scott said. “Some people apparently don’t understand that.”
Scott repeatedly criticized President Obama’s administration for suing those who try to crack down on illegal entry into this country, like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the states of Arizona and Texas.
Although Scott asserted his staff does not profile, he said the Sheriff’s Office asks every person who is stopped for a legal reason to provide identification. If they cannot provide ID or give a straight story, they are brought to jail until their identity and legal status can be determined.
Cracking down on illegal immigrants in the county is one reason Scott believes in aggressive traffic enforcement, he said. “You don’t know what you get when you stop a car.”
Scott said the number of illegal immigrants in Lee County has dropped in recent years, but not from law enforcement efforts. More likely, it’s a result of the economic recession: There just aren’t as many jobs available.
A few years ago, 2,000 to 3,000 people were crossing the border illegally every day, Scott said. With fake identification and employers willing to look the other way, most find higher paying jobs in the United States.
Much to Scott’s embarrassment, 22 undocumented workers were found painting the new county jail. How they get into the country is a problem Scott is powerless to stop.
“Your Lee County sheriff is responsible for a lot,” he said. “It’s an honor and a privilege and a challenge. But one thing we cannot control is that border.”