By Tom Tillison
Well, I finally heard from the remaining members of the Orange County Board of Commissioners on Sheriff Jerry Demings’ sanctuary-friendly policy of not being interested in the immigration status of those in our country illegally while enforcing the law, to include Mayor Teresa Jacobs.
And while I’d like to share some encouraging examples of leadership from those tasked with governing our community, alas, that will not be the case.
I did learn that Sheriff Demings is the current president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, which I find almost inexplicable. Considering the man tasked with leading the FSA effectively picks and chooses which laws he will enforce in his own county, well, what does that say about the organization?
The FSA bills itself as the “voice of sheriffs, 67 men and women united in the service of protecting Florida.”
I contacted the group to ask if the organization supports Demings’ policy of not checking the immigration status of those in the United States illegally. The FSA can be reached HERE.
Ever skeptical, should a response be forthcoming I will be sure to share it with you. I hold out hope for something more than another canned answer that effectively says nothing, other than a response was given — which is what we’ve seen from much of the BCC.
As for the BCC, after contacting each member about Sheriff Demings’ ill-advised policy that puts our community at risk, I shared the responses I received last week while drawing attention to those I had yet to hear from — which proved effective, as the holdouts contacted me the same day.
Mayor Jacobs’ assistant informed me that “the Sheriff is a separately elected official who is accountable directly to the people” and suggested I contact him directly. This proved to be the popular, if not politically expedient response. Commissioner Victoria Siplin also noted that Demings is an independently elected constitutional officer, but offered an overall perspective of how illegal immigrants are handled in the county. The information provided proved that she took the time to inquire with the legal minds — or read my article last week, which covered much of what she shared. I found Siplin’s response to be refreshingly candid and sincere.
Commissioner Emily Bonilla, bless her heart, punted altogether. Her office informed that she “will not respond to political issues regarding constitutional officers,” noting that they are independent from the Board of County Commissioners.
Which leaves Commissioner Pete Clarke. I received an auto-reply from an aide, then a direct email from the commissioner promising to send me his thoughts.
In my initial communications with the seven members, I asked a) if they support Demings stance, and b) what actions they plan to pursue to affect that decision?
No one offered a direct answer to either question, which means if there is to be leadership in the community to bring pressure to bear on Sheriff Demings, it will not originate with those elected to represent our interests.
It’s also more or less a given that the media will not be picking up the mantle anytime soon… which means it will be up to Orange County residents to do the heavy lifting to better ensure the safety of our community.
And while it may seem that this was an exercise in futility, what was accomplished is that all seven elected officials on the BCC are now on record for having been notified of a reckless policy that puts the safety of Orange County residents at risk. God forbid that we have a Kate Steinle-type tragedy occur here, but should that happen, these officials will not be able to claim ignorance of an existing risk and will face the inevitable task of explaining their inaction to voter.