Kudos to the sheriff

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Last week Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant stood up to Gov. Paul LePage saying he would not violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights just because the governor ordered him to.

He wasn’t the first Maine sheriff – Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce holds that honor – but he might tie for second with York County Sheriff William King in publicly saying “no” to the governor on this issue.

Joyce went public the week before saying he would no longer cooperate with requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold prisoners beyond their scheduled release. In doing so, his is the first jurisdiction in the state to take a stance against the practice.

Last Monday, the governor bragged “Well, unbeknownst to them, [the sheriffs] the Maine Constitution says if they don’t follow state law, that I can remove them. So there’s likelihood you’re going to be hearing some stories about sheriffs being removed from their duties.”

Then, on Wednesday, he issued a “clarification” to the media noting that the governor has the power to tell the shriff what do do.

We are a nation of laws,” stated Governor LePage. “We expect our law enforcement officials to comply with the law.” he goes on to state:  “Under state law, the Governor has the authority to direct Sheriffs to obey all orders relating to law enforcement. Many members of the media are confused or have neglected to include that Maine state law also gives the Governor the authority to direct county sheriffs.”

That may be true but perhaps the governor (and the president) should educate himself on both the state and U.S. Constitution.

Just because they are immigrants, even illegal immigrants, doesn’t mean they are not protected by these constitutions that say once inmates have been bailed out or served their sentence, sheriffs have no authority to continue to hold them.

So kudos to Gallant and every other sheriff who has publicly stood up for the rights of the people they serve, criminals or otherwise. It might have been easier for them to keep their heads down and quietly refuse the ICE detainer requests.

And thumbs down to the Governor who apparently needs to understand that the sheriffs’ job is to uphold the law, not break it.