Words hold weight, and they convey energy to those who read or hear them. They are palpable. Racist messages can sometimes hide below the surface, while other times it’s open and obvious. Anti-immigrant rhetoric and the sentiment conveyed by that rhetoric is borne from the racism that stains American history, and the words spewed by anti-immigrant factions across the county eject hateful and violent energy. It inspires acts of violence, felt keenly by Black, Indigenous, and Immigrants of Color, upending their lives, their safety, and their dignity.
(Photo caption: RISE Coalition members gather in Frederick County, Maryland, to call for the end of the 287(g) program.)
Frederick Sheriff Charles Jenkins’ is part and parcel of this anti-immigrant movement, and his rhetoric and actions as the head of the sheriff’s department in Frederick County have severe consequences and cause violence in people’s lives. His Office has a history of racial profiling, and the mismanagement of his detention center are examples of his disregard for immigrant lives. Not only has he been sued twice for racially profiling immigrants in Frederick County, but the people in his charge at the Frederick detention center recently endured a black water flood that risked the health of everyone in his custody, forcing them to suffer through a flood of sewage erupting from the toilets in their cells. Many people who were detained spoke out about the health complications that they suffered.
Jenkins has uttered incendiary comments about immigrants through media interviews and testimony that consistently devalues immigrants’ lives. He has stated that unaccompanied refugee children “aren’t all the innocent children they’re portrayed to be” and has called recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program “hardcore gangbangers,” saying that we need to “round these people up and place them in Guantanamo until we can deport ‘em.”
Jenkins and other anti-immigrant groups frequently tie immigrants with violence. They’ll paint people they are othering as a danger to the rest, using metaphors like disease and sickness to justify their violence and hate. People with anti-immigrant views will frequently dehumanize people by referring to immigrants as “inherently violent” and not people at all, but “gangbangers”, “criminals”, “illegal aliens”, etc.
This is why the news about Frederick County Sheriff Jenkins’ federal indictment on criminal charges, misuse of office, and poor civil rights record are not surprising, but ironic. For years, Jenkins and deputies under his leadership instilled fear into Frederick County’s immigrant community.
Under the 287(g) agreement, ICE deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration laws resulting in deportation and detention – despite the Sheriff’s Office misconduct.
Sheriff Jenkins has described himself as a member of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA). CSPOA promotes the wild legal theory that local sheriffs have ultimate authority over state and federal governments, and that sheriffs are the supreme arbiters of the law. In response to a 2022 Marshall Project survey, Jenkins said he agreed with the statements, “[t]he sheriff’s authority supersedes the federal or state government in my county” and “I am willing to ‘interpose’ on behalf of county residents when I believe a state or federal law is unjust.”
Jenkins has even seemingly left the door open for his office to deploy violence against the federal government: “Is it going to come down to my men facing off with a federal agency at gunpoint?” asked Sheriff Jenkins, “I hope not.” Time and time again, Jenkins has shown his disregard for the law, despite his role as sheriff.
Sara Medrano and members of the “RISE” Coalition were illegally detained by Sheriff Jenkin’s deputies. They won a legal case that challenged Frederick deputies’ blatant practice of racial profiling. Roxana Orellana Santos challenged the Sheriff’s Office’s years earlier for the same racist behavior. She was detained and arrested because deputies claimed she was eating her sandwich while on her lunch break “suspiciously.” The trauma was so much, Roxana passed out while she going to court as she sought accountability for the wrong forced on her.
Through his words and actions, Jenkins has perpetuated violence, like illegally detaining people using racial profiling and verbally calling for violence against immigrants. He uses his badge to intimidate. Jenkins justifies all this violence by calling immigrants themselves inherently violent.
Under Sheriff Jenkins, the Frederick Sheriff's Office has racially profiled and violated the rights of immigrant residents, including our courageous plaintiff Ms. Sara Medrano, and members of the RISE Coalition. Jenkins might not believe he is accountable to anyone, but the Frederick immigrant community remains steadfast in their advocacy against him. This year, our federal government is pursuing charges against Sheriff Jenkins for violating federal gun laws. The federal government must be consistent in holding Jenkins accountable, investigate his and his office's misconduct, and end the 287(g) agreement with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
Sara Medrano and Roxana Orellana Santos aren’t the ones being charged with any illegal guns violations. If we’re asking who is undermining public safety for all, perhaps, the call is coming from inside the house.
You can see the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request the ACLU filed with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office here, and the results of that MPIA here.