Sheriff and Police Put Deportation Fears to Rest

By on March 21, 2017


JACKSON HOLE, WY – Teton County Sheriff Jim Whalen and Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith issued a joint statement Monday addressing fears about how the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown will affect undocumented immigrants in the valley. Their message was one of reassurance.

“There are no plans to conduct immigration raids in Teton County, either now or in the future,” the statement reads.

The statement is on the heels of two immigration forums conducted Friday by attorneys from Immigrant Legal Services, a nonprofit from Salt Lake City.

Whalen and Smith attended the morning forum that was geared toward employers and the general public. Whalen and Smith spoke, reassuring the crowd that no U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) visits or raids are in the works.

Though Whalen and Smith were unable to attend the evening forum for Latino residents, they prepared their written statement, which Lieutenant Matt Carr read. It was translated in Spanish for the crowd and received a standing ovation.

“I attended the evening meeting on Friday, and my impression was that those in attendance were quite relieved,” said attorney Rosie Read.

A lawyer with Trefonas Law, which handles many of the immigration cases in town, Read has been privy to her clients’ fears about ICE raids and deportation threats. “There were so many rumors flying around for a few weeks there about raids around town,” Read said. “To have an authoritative source state publicly that all of those reports were unsubstantiated and that people don’t need to worry about an ICE ‘round-up’ happening here going forward was definitely a relief.”

Setting the record straight was Whalen and Smith’s goal. “We felt that there were a lot of things being mentioned publicly in our community that weren’t accurate,” Whalen told PJH. “We’ve had conversations with ICE and we wanted to get the right information out.”

Whalen and Smith said in their statement that they have received reassurances from the regional ICE department that raids are not planned, notice will be given when ICE is coming to town, and deportation proceedings will not be taken against people committing minor offenses like driving without a license.

Their message emphasized that law abiding people in Teton County will be not targeted or singed out. “This is supported by the fact that no person has been deported from Teton County for a minor traffic offense since President Trump took office,” the statement read.

Deportation proceedings are focused on individuals who had previously been deported or who have a current deportation order against them, the statement says. Serious criminal offenses are the main thing to attract ICE’s notice, according to the statement. “The message in this is to not commit criminal offenses that would lead a person being in this situation in the first place.”

The statement urged local residents to trust local law enforcement as well as the regional ICE department. “We encourage you to continue to live, work and raise your families here with the knowledge you can do so without worrying if ICE is going to come knocking on your doors.”

Another reassuring assertion in the statement is that local law enforcement will not be enforcing immigration laws, only Wyoming State law violations. Residents need not fear local law enforcement as an arm of ICE, according to local law enforcement.

The message comes at a time when President Trump has initiated a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes. The president’s plan includes such draconian measures as stripping undocumented immigrants of privacy protections; enlisting local police officers as enforcers; erecting new detention facilities; and expediting deportations.

Whalen and Smith hope to allay fears of those kinds of measures coming to Jackson Hole. “We both felt that we have a lot of things going on in terms of what our Latino community is feeling and we wanted to set the record straight,” Whalen said.

Local law enforcement, Smith added, is driven by a community policing ethos. “We want to serve everyone in our community,” he said. “Latinos in our community are looking for answers. They want to know what is predictable.”

“The number one message, is that nobody is getting deported unless you are committing crimes,” Smith said.

The joint statement may be read in its entirety at A Spanish translation of the statement will be published soon.



About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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