Part of the job of being sheriff is to be the voice for the county and the people, and that is exactly what Calhoun County Sheriff Bobbie Vickery accomplished Sept. 24.
Sheriff Vickery and about 185 sheriffs from all over the United States landed in Washington D.C., Sept. 24, for a Sheriff’s Immigration and Border Crisis Conference.
“It was to try and tell congress, look, quit fighting with each other and help us fix this issue,” as to the main reason for attending the conference, Vickery said.
Tuesday evening was a social event, where Vickery and other sheriffs networked and visited.
The next day, the sheriff attended a Badges and Angels Rally press conference on the lawn of the capitol.
According to Vickery, “Angels” or “Angel Moms” are moms, dads and/or family members that have lost family members at the hands of an illegal immigrant.
“There were a bunch of Angel Moms there. Their group is very large, unfortunately,” Vickery said. “These families were from all over the country and not just from bordering states, as far as Massachusetts.”
Vickery explained that the border crisis doesn’t just affect states that border Mexico, but the entire United States. He gave an example of a sheriff from Massachusetts that is a big advocate of better border security.
“He (Sheriff from Massachusetts) said they have as much of a problem or more than we have down here because they infiltrate the northern states to get away from the border. That is why sheriffs from all over the country were at the conference,” Vickery said.
Vickery said congressmen, senators and Homeland Security department heads were speaking to congress on behalf of the sheriffs and Angel Moms.
He then got into the things he and his deputies and fellow law enforcement officers encounter daily while out on the streets. Whether it is from illegal immigrants, criminals, press or citizens, he said they are getting heat from all sides.
“So many people try to play it off as an act of racism. The reality is that people from Mexico coming over are the extreme minority. There are people coming over from 46 other countries. People from 46 countries coming over, and how many are coming over with the intent to harm?” Vickery questioned.
Vickery strongly stated that he is pro-immigration, but that the United States has laws and the right to vet everyone that comes in. He said that immigration is how most of “us” are even here in the United States.
“We need to vet them to make sure they aren’t coming over to do harm,” Vickery said.
He then gave an analogy to people he encounters that say the United States shouldn’t punish the 99 percent of illegal immigrants because one percent is coming to do harm
“Here is my analogy for that. What would you do if I told you I am going to put a bowl on your table for your whole family. There are 100 grapes in there. I am going to pick out one grape and inject it with poison. Then I am going to put it back into the bowl with the others and mix it all up.
Then I will set it back on your table and say you have to eat every grape in that bowl. Who is going to eat those grapes?” Vickery asked.
His answer, “Nobody.” It is no different he said.
One of the things that bothers Vickery and his partner sheriffs in the Gulf Coast Region is that it is a main corridor for illegal immigrants.
“Calhoun County has 525 miles of coastline. We also have direct links to the Gulf of Mexico, including the Intercoastal Waterways,” Vickery said.
“I don’t know what the number is, but we have cocaine and marijuana bundles wash up all the time, so if you know they are bringing in drugs, they are bringing illegals in.”
The sheriff said that Calhoun County has a direct problem with illegal immigration, as law enforcement deals with cartel and gang issues that, according to him, stems directly from illegal immigrants.
“People are so blind, saying there is not an issue, or that it is manufactured. Spend a day down there, and you will find out right quick that it is not manufactured,” Vickery said.
Vickery did say that there are people in Washington D.C that are standing and willing to help with the issue. At the conference, he said they had a large question and answer session with a group of different department heads.
“They basically said, ‘This is where we are at now, this is where we are trying to go, what questions do you have for us, tell us your problems, what direction you would like to see us go’,” Vickery said.
“Essentially, we are boots on the ground, and they are sitting behind a desk, Vickery said. “They are doing the best they can, but without the boots on the ground, they don’t have a real direction.”