AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- In a radio interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday, Governor LePage revealed he plans to issue an executive order to remove two sheriffs from their duties who, he claims, say they won't work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ingraham asked LePage for the latest on refugee resettlement in Maine. He said refugees were still coming in for a while when he first announced Maine was not going to participate in refugee resettlement during the Obama Administration, but "they're not now."
"We've asked ICE to investigate a few organizations in the state of Maine," LePage said. "Just last Friday -- I'm issuing an executive order right now because we have a couple sheriffs that say they're not going to work with ICE."
"Unbeknownst to them, the Maine constitution says if they don't follow state law, then I can remove them."
LePage added there was a "likelihood you're going to be hearing some stories about some sheriffs being removed from their duties."
Ingraham asked if there were two sheriffs in question, LePage said there was one in particular and one that hadn't come out and said he wasn't going to participate. "But he's sending signs he's going to ignore them. If they do, it's going to be to their dismay."
According to state law, the Governor has the power to remove a sheriff after receiving a complaint about said sheriff from the county commissioners. It is not clear whether or not Governor LePage has, in fact, received a complaint from the Cumberland County Commissioners about Sheriff Kevin Joyce.
Joyce announced in a press conference that his department would no longer hold some inmates for immigration agents. Because of this announcement, it is assumed that Governor LePage is talking about Sheriff Joyce when he says there is “one [sheriff] in particular” who he is considering removing from duty.
NEWS CENTER has reached out to the Cumberland County Commissioners and asked if they have filed a complaint with the governor's office about Sheriff Joyce. Commissioner Steve Gordon called our email, "a complete surprise."
"There must be some misinterpretation of the Governor's remarks, which I have neither heard nor read; as to my knowledge, no Cumberland County Commissioner has even entertained such a thought," he wrote.
Commissioner James Cloutier called LePage's threat "hot air," and said no commissioner has proposed a complaint, and none would pass.
"I know of no complaint," he said. "As far as I know, the Sheriff is completely correct about his stance related to the ICE detention request practice. The county has an agreement with ICE that we will detain lawfully arrested or detained persons, however, the detention of persons who are not the subject of a legal order of restraint has been ruled inappropriate and illegal in several recent court cases. The Sheriff is obeying the law."
The LePage Administration told NEWS CENTER no removal proceedings have been initiated yet.
"However, the safety and security of the children, families, and citizens of the State of Maine is the Governor's first responsibility. As a state established under the authority of the Constitution of the United States of America and of the State of Maine, the State must do its duty and work cooperatively at the federal, state and local level to enforce the laws that maintain our nation's sovereignty and keep us safe," Press Secretary Julie D. Rabinowitz wrote in an email.
Rabinowitz then pointed out sheriffs are required by state law to obey all orders relating to law enforcement which they receive from the Governor (30-A M.R.S.A. §401(4).)
She also referred to the provisions of Executive Order 001-2011 LePage signed in January of 2011.
“All Maine residents having lawful status are entitled to fair treatment by state officials and access to state services … certain prior Executive Orders may have created the impression that Maine was a so-called 'sanctuary state' for those who are in the United States without lawful status … it is the intent of this Administration to promote rather than hinder the enforcement of federal immigration law … I, Paul R. LePage, Governor of the State of Maine, under the power vested in me, hereby order as follows: 1. Executive Order 13 FY 04/05, dated April 9, 2004, and Executive Order 34 FY 04/05, dated February 28, 2005, are hereby rescinded, effective immediately. 2. Employees and officials of the State of Maine shall cooperate with employees and officials of the federal government on all matters pertinent to immigration, subject only to any limitations imposed by statutory law or by the Constitutions of Maine or the United States.”
Rabinowitz wrote, "The Governor has the ability to exercise the authority granted to him by Article IX Section 10 of the Maine State Constitution:"
"Removal of sheriffs from office and replacement. Whenever the Governor upon complaint, due notice and hearing shall find that a sheriff is not faithfully or efficiently performing any duty imposed upon the sheriff by law, the Governor may remove such sheriff from office and appoint another sheriff to serve for the remainder of the term for which such removed sheriff was elected. All vacancies in the office of sheriff, other than those caused by removal in the manner aforesaid shall be filled in the same manner as is provided in the case of judges and registers of probate."
Sheriff Joyce is also getting support from within the law enforcement community. On Monday, York County Sheriff Bill King posted to Facebook, "I stand with Sheriff Kevin Joyce and will not honor a 'request' from the federal government to hold an immigrant without proper documentation. I make no apology for protecting the taxpayers of York County from needless litigation."
The governor said Maine has had a couple of terrorists and, "I'm not going to stand by and watch them settle in Maine, and do their harm from here in Maine."
Aside from the two terrorists of 9/11 who flew from Canada to Maine, he provided Adnan Fazeli as an example.
LePage said there are others with suspicions that have been picked up by ICE and are being looked at right now.
"We've had our problems," he said. "We're a border state and unfortunately, some do come in from Canada and that's been a problem. Some come by boat. We have 3,600 miles of coastline. It is a problem."