ABBEVILLE, Alabama — A Canadian man who served as a reserve deputy for 25 years in southeast Alabama is facing charges of being in the United States illegally, and the sheriff he worked for isn't happy about it.
Kevin Dwight Venhuis, 46, of Abbeville is charged with being an illegal immigrant and possessing firearms without proper U.S. citizenship, federal court records say.
Henry County Sheriff William Maddox said Venhuis volunteered for the department for years, and the fact he was Canadian was never an issue because he was married to an American woman.
But Maddox told the Dothan Eagle that Venhuis' citizenship became an issue because he got a divorce, and he was arrested Monday at a traffic stop.
A sworn statement by a Department of Homeland Security officer said Alabama authorities received a complaint that Venhuis was working as a deputy even though he wasn't a U.S. citizen.
Aside from the immigration violation, Venhuis also was charged with being an illegal resident in possession for firearms."He donates all of that, and he don't charge the sheriff's office one dime," Maddox said. "He's a computer genius is what he is. This don't set well with me after 25 years."
Brian Cox, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Orleans, said the investigation was continuing Thursday and declined further comment.
Federal court records show the government denied Venhuis' application for an alien relative status in June 2009, based on his divorce from the U.S. citizen two years earlier after almost three years of marriage.
Maddox said he has been working with Venhuis for some time to help him get his immigration issues straightened out. He said Venhuis had already hired an immigration attorney. The sheriff said he and a former Henry County judge went to the immigration office in Atlanta in an effort to help Venhuis, but they had heard nothing from immigration officials.
'We all understood his lawyer had his paperwork, and it was just a matter of getting all the paperwork straightened out," Maddox said. "Why has it taken so long to get a yes or no answer from immigration about whether he can live in the United States or not? He's been paying taxes all these years too. If he's a tax paying citizen why in the world can't he become a U.S. citizen?"
Court records show a federal agent, with help from an Alabama state trooper, stopped Venhuis in Abbeville while driving a 2003 Hummer. The trooper saw a sheriff's badge attached to the sun visor of the vehicle.
Records show agents questioned Venhuis about whether he possessed any guns, and he said he had five weapons and ammunition at his Abbeville home. After Venhuis agreed to a search of his home, officers found three handguns, a rifle and a shotgun in a locked closet under the stairs. Agents also found three Henry County Sheriff's badges inside the residence.
Maddox questioned why federal agents didn't come to him since they had an issue with one of his reserve deputies.
"I just think it was handled wrong. I'm upset the federal government didn't let me know they were coming. They want locals to work them, but undoubtedly they don't want to work with locals," he said.
Translation: We love immigrants as long as they are our friends. Everyone else can take a hike.