Religious Leaders Speaking Up

Last month, the leaders of two Washington County-based religious organizations spoke out against 287(g) and Sheriff Helder's voluntarily deporting immigrants from our county.  Here is the letter below:

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Sheriff Helder heard loud and clear from constituents last week, a group of fifty at the Steering Committee all expressing their concerns about the 287-g ICE detainer program. But then the sheriff's reply (in last week's paper): he's not changing anything because he could fill up Walton Arena with people who support his policy.

Of course, what Sheriff Helder should do is the right thing, regardless of crowd sizes. Instead, he makes a number of false claims. First, that no one ever objected before and that we are only paying attention now because we (Catholic Charities, Canopy NWA, People Power, the ACLU, AUCC) oppose President Trump. That's a patently false claim, as many in our organizations have been opposing 287-g for years.

Second, he claims that if we didn't have 287-g in place, ICE would be free to be on the street raiding restaurants and busting immigrant.  (translation: I'm the good cop; you should see how those other cops treat people). This second point is clearly a threat. It's meant to scare people and silence them from opposing a clearly harmful program that he currently voluntarily opts into.

If we truly want a county sheriff who is committed to protecting all the people of Washington County, including immigrants, it seems we are going to need to elect a new one. In the meantime, please know that our sheriff is unwilling to listen to the voice of immigrants, faith communities, and the organizations in our county that work among and serve them. He's choosing racist policies over the good of our county. We call on Sheriff Helder once again to opt out of 287-g.


Frank Head, Catholic Charities
Clint Schnekloth, Canopy NWA