State Rep. Cheryl Helmer, R-Mulvane, said Friday that she stands by remarks she made at a town hall meeting regarding the sanctuary status for illegal immigrants.
The Wichita Eagle reported on Wednesday that Helmer falsely labeled Wichita a sanctuary city while addressing U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran at an event in Mulvane on Wednesday.
“Wichita’s been named a sanctuary city and we’re feeling some real insecurity,” Helmer is quoted as saying. “I’ve been robbed two times — I’m out by the (Kansas Star) casino — and it’s because of that sanctuary city law.”
The Eagle went on to report that Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said the city regularly cooperates with federal agencies on immigration enforcement, and that city spokesperson Elyse Mohler confirmed with the police department that Wichita does not provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
During a phone interview Friday, Helmer said she was referring to Sedgwick County and thought that she had said so at the town hall. She added that Sedgwick County includes Wichita.
Helmer said sheriff deputies told her about a year and a half ago that the county was considered a sanctuary county, after her farm near Mulvane had been robbed.
She also said she had seen a map on the internet that confirmed this, but that the map isn’t there anymore. She did not recall the source of the map.
“I don’t have it recorded in my mind, but I remember seeing the sanctuary, and I remember people showing me that we were a sanctuary city, and that this was a problem,” Helmer said.
Last year, according to the Eagle, the Center for Immigration Studies, a think-tank that advocates for strict immigration policy, included and then removed Sedgwick County from a list of so-called sanctuary counties after Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter complained.
In early 2017, Easter wrote an explanation published by the Eagle that said a conflict over detention policies had been cleared up with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after ICE began providing probable cause statements along with requests to detain individuals.
“On March 31, we contacted the Kansas City ICE sub-office, and it confirmed we are now in compliance and should not be classified as a sanctuary county,” Easter wrote.
He added that the term “sanctuary county” has never been defined by the courts or in law.
Helmer on Friday said that Easter got the status changed but added, “If Jeff Easter were to tell they truth, he would tell you that two years ago Wichita was under the sanctuary laws.”
A voice message left at the Sheriff’s office seeking comment was not returned before deadline Friday.
The Eagle reported that Helmer, after the town hall Wednesday, backed off her claim the robberies were linked to lack of immigration enforcement.
“Oh no, no, no. I have no idea who robbed me or I’d be looking for them,” Helmer told the Eagle.
Helmer verified to the CourierTraveler that she had no link between the robberies at her property and immigration, and said the deputies responding to her report did not make that link either.
Asked to explain why she reportedly had much such a link, Helmer began to comment but then said, “OK. We need to stop, when I start getting confused.”
Helmer said she addressed Moran to ask why he voted against a border wall, apparently referring to Moran’s opposition to President Trump declaring a national emergency to divert funds from other sources to build a southern border wall.
“I don’t care about immigrants,” Helmer said Friday. “I care about national security… I told Moran we have a feeling of insecurity if our police cannot secure us, and if their hands are tied, and it’s not right to put burdens on police. That’s all I was saying.”
The whole thing has been blown out of proportion, Helmer said, and that she’d been “annihilated” and “killed” on social media, emails and phone calls after the story.
She added that said planned not to attend an event in Winfield on Friday because she’d been threatened. Asked whether she planned to contact law enforcement, Helmer said no.
“What are they going to do?” she asked.