Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo
Both Democrats and Republicans have brought forth a ideas on immigration reform in recent weeks, but two local sheriffs have the same suggestion for legislators: Enforce the laws already on the books.
"We have to find a way to enforce more efficiently the laws we already have before we talk about changing them," Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. "The challenge with that is you've got to fund it, equip it and staff it properly to handle the amount of individuals you have."
Both Rambosk and Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said border security is crucial.
"You can strengthen the border, that's nice, but you've got to secure it," Rambosk said.
Scott said talking about immigration reform without a secure border "is like trying to paint the house while it's raining."
"People are still crossing the border every night, right now as we speak," he said. "They talk tough … but at the end of the day, our nation sadly has been asleep at the switch for the last 50 years."
Rambosk praised Collier County's 287(g) program, which allows jail deputies to assess incoming inmates' legal statuses, but acknowledged the program only deals with people already in the criminal justice system.
Lee County was in line to get a 287(g) program like Collier's, but shortly before it went into action, federal officials began making changes to the program, Scott said. It never went into effect in Lee.
"It's another example of the federal government backpedaling," Scott said.
Local and state law enforcement officers should be allowed to pick up the slack of the federal government if it cannot enforce its own immigration laws, Scott said.
"I'd say the same thing that's already been said by perhaps the most famous sheriff, Joe Arpaio (of Arizona): If you're not going to do the job for us, let us do it," he said.
Rambosk said immigration should remain in control of the federal government, but he acknowledged lawmakers will have to find the money to pay for enforcement initiatives.
"While you can say you want to enforce the law, you have to develop a more effective mechanism and find the associated funding that it will take to do it properly," Rambosk said.