The San Jose Mexican Restaurant chain in South Carolina is at the center of an illegal immigration and bribery scandal that has resulted in the indictment of the state's longest-serving sheriff, who has showcased the deportations of hundreds of people not authorized to be in the U.S., the New York Times reports. A June 17 grand jury indictment accuses Sheriff James Metts, Lexington County's top law enforcement official since 1972, of accepting cash bribes from Gregorio Leon, 47, whose family founded the first San Jose restaurant in the state in the late 1980s.
In exchange for the cash, Metts, who pleaded not guilty this week, is alleged to have freed restaurant workers arrested in an initiative against illegal immigration and sent to the county jail he controlled. South Carolina has had one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the U.S., and along with it, a growing concern, especially among conservatives, about the presence of people there illegally. In 2010, Metts told USA Today that he was concerned about “several murders, gang activity, drug activity, coming in with the Hispanic population.” The same year, Metts entered into an agreement with federal officials that allowed some of his deputies to enforce federal immigration laws under the supervision of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.