Sheriff’s ICE policy blasted | April 10
Pinellas should end partnership with ICE
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recently participated in a community conversation on his controversial agreement with ICE to voluntarily detain immigrants in the county jail. Gualtieri claims that his partnership with ICE is solely for the purpose of keeping undocumented violent criminals off the streets. He invoked the Trumpian, fear-laden narrative of "rapists, murderers and thieves" to support his voluntarily detaining people for ICE for $50 a day.
The sheriff said two important things: He has no interest in detaining people whose only crime is re-entering this country to be with their families. He also admitted that he has no idea what crimes (or lack thereof) a person has committed when ICE asks him to detain them. The sheriff admitted he has no idea if they are violent criminals or if they are like Luis Blanco, whose only crime was re-entering the country to be with his wife and children. The sheriff claims he has no interest in detaining someone like Blanco, and yet the sheriff did detain him. And now Blanco is separated from his seven children and pregnant wife.
If the sheriff wants to continue to invoke the narrative of rapists, murders and thieves, the burden is on him to make sure his claim is actually true.
When asked about Luis Blanco, the sheriff shrugged his shoulders and claimed to have never heard of him. The sheriff failed to explain how we are safer because Luis Blanco was detained in the county jail and is now back in Mexico. My invitation still stands, sheriff: Sit down with the Blancos and me and look into the eyes of a family you helped destroy. This is completely within your control — end your partnership with ICE.
The Rev. Andy Oliver, St. Petersburg
The writer is pastor of Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg.
Safety investigation needed
In early 2016, my family experienced an in-flight mishap during an Allegiant Airlines flight. Like many Allegiant travelers, we were drawn in by low fares and direct flights. But as a 14-year veteran Air Force pilot with more than 1,300 hours of combat time, I knew what we’d experienced during our flight was uncommon and dangerous.
For my 4-year-old son, Ethan, it was his first time to fly with Dad. As the MD-80 aircraft accelerated to "rotation speed," I described exactly what was happening, except that just before we lifted off, one of the engines failed. The moment I was using to cultivate Ethan’s love of flying turned into a moment of terror as the aircraft shuddered and swayed as it decelerated and came to an abrupt stop on the runway.
After the experience, I would learn hundreds of other passengers were having similar experiences — on a weekly basis. Thanks to the keen reporting of Tampa Bay Times, Allegiant continues to be deeply scrutinized. In a 2016 interview with Times reporter Bill Levesque, I told him that I wanted to ensure my story was told because I was concerned the status quo would lead to a loss of life. This concern remains.
The FAA’s lack of action on behalf of passengers proves hard-hitting journalism is requisite to the safety and health of our nation and economy. If the press can’t hold regulators accountable for failing to take action, we the people lose. But now it’s our turn. As citizens, we’ve become aware of a company that is habitually unsafe, a company the FAA will not hold accountable. With this knowledge, it is we the people who must now ask our congressional representatives to make a formal inquiry into this matter.
David Stuckenberg, Tampa