Kleinhelter, other sheriffs meet with Trump, officials

Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press
President Donald Trump poses for photographs with members of law enforcement during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. The president was given a plaque of appreciation from America's Sheriffs and Angel Families.


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dubois County Sheriff Tom Kleinhelter was part of a group of 100 sheriffs from across the country who met with President Donald Trump on Thursday.

In addition to talking to the president, the sheriffs have also been in Washington, D.C., meeting with other federal officials about how illegal immigration affects their communities.

Photo provided
Kleinhelter posing in front of the White House

“Just hearing the sheriffs from Texas and Arizona talk about how it affects them, it was completely different than how it affects us,” Kleinhelter said this morning, just prior to leaving the nation’s capital. He will return to Dubois County this afternoon.

Kleinhelter and the other sheriffs were invited by the nonprofit group Federation of American Immigration Reform — FAIR — to meet with Trump and other federal officials. He was one of six Indiana sheriffs in the group.

“I’m not sure how they came up with who they were going to invite. But I got an email from them inviting me to do this,” Kleinhelter said. “Essentially, they wanted to speak about illegal immigration and border security.”

Kleinhelter arrived in Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning and spent time walking around city, seeing various monuments and visiting museums.

“The last time I was in Washington, D.C., was on my son’s eighth-grade trip,” he said, “and that goes so quickly because you’re so busy. It was nice to walk around and take it all in, and see how beautiful the city is.”

On Wednesday, the sheriffs met with FAIR members in the morning. “They wanted to get a perspective of how, for us, for me, for Indiana, how is Indiana dealing with that, and does this affect Indiana,” Kleinhelter said. Also on Wednesday, the sheriffs met with Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Sheriffs from different parts of the country gave their perspective, including the Indiana sheriff’s.

“The immigrants we have in our community,” Kleinhelter said, “we need them. We need them to fill jobs and to work. I don’t believe that we have the gangs and the violence that some of the other areas do.”

But there are some issues, he said.

“Where we lack, and what I think harms southern Indiana, is the illegal immigrants that are coming across bringing in illegal drugs from the cartel,” Kleinhelter said. “They’re going up into the major cities: Louisville, and Indianapolis, and Evansville, and Nashville. And the drugs are getting distributed from them.”

Kleinhelter said the state government has been active in trying to decrease the drug problem.

“Over the years, our government has done a great job,” he said. “Indiana has passed laws about how to combat the making of meth. So we don’t have the meth labs that we once did. So if you can imagine, if we can secure the borders and not allow the illegal drugs to come across, that would be a big step in fighting our drug problem.”

Thursday morning, Kleinhelter talked with Indiana Senators Mike Braun and Todd Young and Indiana Congressman Greg Pence before the group of sheriffs got back together Thursday afternoon to talk to White House officials, including Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.

Around 5 p.m. Thursday, the sheriffs met with Trump.

“He came and talked to us for about five or 10 minutes,” Kleinhelter said. “I did not get to speak to the president directly. But we had a spokesperson who told him why we were all there. Our message got to him.”

FAIR held a reception for the sheriffs Thursday night. And Kleinhelter left Washington, D.C., this morning.

Kleinhelter felt that the discussions were well organized and effective.

“Everyone we talked to seemed very open and respectful of law enforcement,” he said. “That was crucial, that they respected law enforcement for what they do ... They knew we were truthful and legitimate when we shared what we believe is happening in our communities.

It was very productive. And I truly felt honored to be invited here.”

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