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SANCTUARY CITIES AND STATES
INFORMATION RESOURCE

WYOMING HAS ONE OR MORE CITIES OFFERING
ILLEGAL SANCTUARY

  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming

  • Them on Us: Sanctuary Jackson; Hemingway here; plane skids
    By Jake Nichols for Jackson Hole Planet, March 5, 2008

    House Bill 0062 died in committee and at least one Torrington resident is peeved.

    “I’m deeply disappointed,” wrote Cathy Simons in a letter to the editor of the Torrington Telegram. The failed bill would have made illegal so-called “sanctuary cities” that provide safe haven for the hiring and harboring of illegal aliens. Simons singled out Jackson as one of these sanctuary cities, where, she says, greed is to blame.

    “The argument that illegal alien workers are “valuable” contributors to the state economy and that they do the jobs that citizens will not do would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic,” Simons wrote. You know the ones who should really be up in arms? The citizens ... on whose backs it falls to pay for the health care, welfare and education for their illegal alien neighbors!”
    Urge legislators to outlaw sanctuary cities
    The Torrington Telegram, February 27, 2008

    A decidedly Republican Wyoming House failed to introduce a bill last week (H.B. 0062) that would make sanctuary cities (like Jackson Hole) illegal in this state. As a Wyoming Republican, I’m deeply disappointed.

    Representatives of districts located in Albany, Fremont, Laramie, Natrona, Sheridan and Teton counties were largely responsible for the bill’s failure. Can I take this to mean that their constituents, the residents of Laramie, Lander, Cheyenne, Casper, Sheridan and Jackson Hole, do not have as their priority the security of the state of Wyoming and the rule of law in the United States of America, but rather, their pocketbooks?

    Let’s get real. It’s greed on the part of businesses and individuals in these counties that’s taking precedence here. Hiring and harboring illegal aliens willing to work for much less than citizens affects the bottom line. Cheaper labor costs mean bigger profits.
    Rural America's 'Sanctuary' Cities
    By Laura Tillman, October 17, 2007

    Jackson, Wyoming, and Worthington, Minnesota, are two rural "sanctuary cities." Both depend on immigrant workers to make their economies go.
    More illegals get sent home
    Number of undocumented immigrants in county jail is 6 times as high as it was a year ago.
    By Amanda H. Miller for the Jackson Hole News
    April 18, 2007

    Yanet Yaktsu Briseno Aguilar will be deported. The petite ashen Mexican woman who celebrated her 21st birthday Tuesday has been in the Teton County jail since the end of February, almost a third of her time in the United States.

    Aguilar lived with her grandparents in Jackson, worked as a hotel housekeeper and sent money home to her 7-year-old son in Mexico. She was in Jackson four months when she allegedly started a fight with a pregnant woman at a party.

    She was charged with felony and misdemeanor battery. After she goes through the court system and serves her sentence, Aguilar, who attempted to cross the border five times before she was successful, will be sent back to Mexico.

    She won’t try to return, she said through tears.

    “It’s beautiful here,” Aguilar said in Spanish. “But there are too many problems.”

    Aguilar is one of 58 illegal immigrants in the Teton County jail detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement so far this year. Last year at this time, there were only 10.

    Local law enforcement say they aren’t doing anything differently. The jail personnel have always called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as have Highway Patrol troopers when they are dealing with someone they believe is foreign-born, they said. The difference, they say, is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is more responsive.

    But there have been significantly more arrests for people driving without licenses – 30 so far this year compared to five at this time last year.

    Aguilar is charged with a felony, making her exactly the type of person Immigration officials are looking to snare. The United States immigration system is supposed to focus on foreign-born criminals, a priority set by the Department of Homeland Security.

    But according to a Homeland Security report, less than half the 3,500 illegal immigrants deported in 2005 from the Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Idaho region had criminal records.

    Many of the people at the Teton County jail being ushered into Immigration and Customs Enforcement vans from Idaho Falls, Idaho, fit that bill.

    Hernandez Jorge Espojel is one of them and he’s already gone. He spent a little more than two days in the jail in early March. He was pulled over driving a friend’s truck with expired registration tags. He was arrested because he didn’t have a valid driver’s license.

    ‘That’s how it went’ Espojel lived in Jackson a year and a half and worked in construction.

    “It just happened because I didn’t have a license and that’s how it went,” Espojel said in Spanish. “I always thought, maybe one day, it could happen.”

    He said he wasn’t going to fight his deportation. He was ready to go home to family.

    Authorities don’t usually arrest people for driving without a license. They write tickets.

    The difference, in these cases, is that authorities don’t know who they’re dealing with when people don’t have valid identification, they say.

    Sgt. Scott Terry with the Jackson Police Department said officers arrest people who don’t have identification because if they didn’t, the person could make up an identity and never have to appear in court or pay a fine. Then officers end up getting warrants from the court for fictitious people.

    The Sheriff’s Department has the same problem.

    Deputy Lloyd Funk said he’s issued citations to people who didn’t show up in court.

    “I start looking up their information and find out they never lived at the address they gave,” Funk said.

    Funk and Terry both stressed that they will arrest anyone who can’t prove who they are, regardless of race. They said people who have valid identification but don’t have it with them can be looked up.

    Neither agency investigates whether someone is documented. They leave that to the jail officials, who say they have always called immigration officials when they suspect someone is foreign-born.

    But the Sheriff’s Department is responsible for almost twice as many arrests for driving without a license as the Jackson Police Department or the Highway Patrol. Those arrests started to pick up significantly last September.

    “Did something happen in September, like a car accident involving someone without a license that made us sit down and look more closely at this?” asked Capt. Jim Whalen. “No. I don’t remember anything like that.”

    But Whalen said Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave a class to deputies. Whalen said he noticed more Immigration detentions and asked deputies about it. He said they told him Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked them to be more vigilant.

    Funk said he was in the class, which was sometime in the fall or early winter, and Immigration officials taught deputies about identifying fake documents. He said deputies also work more closely with Immigration officials to get help translating and identifying people now than they used to.

    “Since we started working with ICE, we’ve been making more arrests,” Funk said.

    The Wyoming State Highway Patrol investigates legal status every time they pull someone over who they believe is foreign-born.

    Since the 1980s, Highway Patrol troopers have contacted immigrations officials from the road, said Lt. Tom Kelly. They call ICE on their cell phones and get help translating and identifying the person they’ve pulled over.

    “The only change here is on the ICE side,” Kelly said. “ICE is actually holding them now instead of kicking them loose like they did before. In the past, unless we were dealing with a felony, they didn’t hold ’em.”

    He said nine times out of 10, he arrests a foreign-born person on immigration charges and not for traffic violations. Kelly said he’s not sure what changed in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

    More manpower Carl Rusnok, the spokesman for our region of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the only official allowed to talk to the media, said he didn’t know what changed, didn’t know anything about the Idaho Falls office in particular, but that there was a restructuring in the organization sometime around October. That might have increased manpower in the detention and removal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He also said an increased awareness and publicity surrounding immigration could be to blame.

    Elisabeth Trefonas, an immigration lawyer, said enforcement has increased in this area over the last year.

    She explained that illegal immigrants here often sign away their right to fight deportation and are taken from Jackson to a small Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Idaho Falls. Then they’re taken to the jail in Rexburg, Idaho. From there, those who don’t plan to fight, are flown to El Paso, Texas, and walked across the border.

    She said those who choose to fight are supposed to go to court in Denver, but the court there is full and they are often rerouted to Salt Lake City. Trefonas said she transfers her cases to Utah anyway because it’s closer. She said there are a couple instances when people can fight deportation.

    Someone who has lived in the country more than 10 years and is of good moral character can stay if Trefonas can prove that his or her deportation would cause an extremely unusual hardship to a citizen, a green-card- holder or a child.

    “That fits a lot of people here,” Trefonas said.

    She said the “extremely unusual hardhship” is the hard thing to prove, and she often turns to employers.

    Bob Arndt, who owns Jackson Whole Grocer, knows firsthand that it’s a hardship to lose an employee to deportation. He stood by his freight group leader’s side when a Highway Patrolman told him he would be deported last year.

    “It wasn’t a good thing,” Arndt said. “And there was nothing we could do. Our hands were tied.”

    Arndt said he, like other employers, did everything he could to ensure his workers were above board. Unfortunately, this issue just adds to an already-transient workforce, he said.

    “In Jackson, you get very used to people coming and going,” Arndt said. “This is a hard town for employers.”

    He told of an employee who worked at Harvest before and when he owned the restaurant. He said the man lived in town more than 10 years and was in the process of applying for a green card. He went back to Mexico and tried to return in order to get the green card. He was denied and deported, Arndt said.

    “The current system isn’t working,” Arndt said. “We need a new system.”
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