West discusses need for immigration reform

Immigration reform is needed. At least, that is what Canadian County Sheriff Chris West told Oklahoma lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
West was one of 15 Oklahoma sheriffs who were invited to attend a conference last week sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
The organization covered all of West’s expenses, including airfare and accommodations.
The group met with the state’s delegates, including Rep. Frank Lucas and an aide for Rep. Kendra Horn.
The trip was an effort to encourage lawmakers to push forward efforts to reform the nation’s immigration laws.
“We were there to discuss the need for immigration laws,” West said.
The first day of the two-day meeting involved a visit to the south steps of the Capitol, where representatives of FAIR discussed what was currently happening with immigration reform.
Among those attending were advocates for the victims of crimes committed by those who are in the country illegally.
West said said those crimes are not limited to border states.
There have been at least two violent crimes that have occurred in Canadian County as a result of people in the country illegally.
The latest occurred earlier this year when Paige Gomer, a mother from Hinton, was shot and killed while she was a passenger in a vehicle.
The suspect, Ramon Hector Martinez Ontiveros, is charged with first-degree murder in Gomer’s March death.
According to court records, Martinez Ontiveros is accused of using an AR-15 in an ambush-style attack. Gomer was not the intended target, authorities have said.
West said that Martinez Ontiveros had been deported multiple time and continued to return.
He is now awaiting trial.
The other slaying occurred in 2015, West said.
“It is not just a border-state issue. It has permiated the entire country and is impacting the county where I am sheriff,” he said.
In addition to meeting with the two state lawmakers, West said the group also met members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, as well as officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Customs and Border Patrol, Homeland Security, think-tank policy-makers and strategists.
On the second day, West said the group had a sit-down with President Donald Trump.
While immigration reform was the major topic of the visit, West said he also discussed criminal justice reform, especially related to those who have mental illnesses.
“They should be treated like patients instead of criminals,” he said.
Often, West said, those with mental illnesses are transported to health facilities by deputies, who are required to handcuff them.
That also traumatizes them.
“It is a double-edged sword. It also takes law officers out of their job of public safety,” West said.
And it’s not unique to Oklahoma, the sheriff said.
“It needs to be seriously looked at,” he said.
Meanwhile, West has been invited to participate in a tour of the border in November.
The tour, which will include about 40 people, will begin at Yuma, Arizona, and will visit four border towns that face the illegal immigration problem every day.
West said he plans to attend the event.
The sheriff said his trip to Washington was about joining with other law enforcement personnel to share their concerns about the issues they face.
“It was important to represent the people of Canadian County and go to the Capitol and tell the agencies that it (illegal immigration) is impacting my county. We need to do what we can to make our counties safe,” West said.

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