Election: Wake Sheriff candidates say they won’t work with ICE

Just like four years ago, immigration as a political issue is playing a role in this year’s election for Wake County Sheriff.

The 10 Wake County nominees will have the opportunity to reinstate the 287(g) program, a jail deal with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known as ICE. Most candidates, including Democrats and Republicans, say they will no longer join the program.

The 287(g) agreement allows sheriff’s deputies to partially act as federal immigration officers by enforcing immigration laws in their jails. Under this program, immigrants without legal status undergo a legal status review in prison and are detained so that ICE can place them in federal custody and deport them.

Under the program previously enacted by former Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison, noncitizen and foreign-born individuals who were arrested in the county were checked for immigration status as part of their reservation. Harrison, a Republican, signed the county on the program in 2007.

But current Sheriff Gerald Baker, a Democrat seeking re-election, severed ties with the program in 2019 shortly after ousting Harrison in the 2018 election. Baker’s campaign has been boosted by support from organizations defense of Latinos and immigrants after having expressed its intention to end the collaboration with ICE.

The primary election is May 17.

Harrison, who is running to reclaim his role as sheriff, argued the program has helped his office identify inmates who have given aliases and are illegally in the United States. The program, however, has drawn criticism from activists and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which ran ads saying Harrison was ‘tearing families apart and stoking racial tensions’ by deporting immigrants arrested for offenses. unrelated to federal immigration laws.

Wake County spent at least $1.7 million on the program in 2016 but only received about $112,000 in return, according to Felicia Arriaga, a professor at Appalachian State University who studied the program. in North Carolina.

The sheriff’s office said 1,483 people were evicted from Wake County after being processed under the 287(g) program between 2013 and 2017, The News & Observer previously reported.

The 287(g) program is different from an ICE Detainee, which is a request for jails to detain an arrested person for typically up to 48 hours when ICE has probable cause to believe the person is a non-citizen who can be deported.

County Durham, for example, never joined 287(g) but stopped honoring inmates under Sheriff Clarence Birkhead.

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Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker speaks with Hispanic residents who attended a community meeting March 10, 2019 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cary. T. Keung Hui [email protected]

Position of candidates on 287(g)

This year, Baker faces a large field of candidates as he seeks to retain his seat.

Seven of the candidates participated in a panel last month hosted by El Pueblo in Raleigh, a Latino advocacy nonprofit that has spoken out against law enforcement acting as agents of the immigration.

Candidates were asked several questions on a range of law enforcement topics, including 287(g).

Baker was not present at the forum but said he would continue his opposition to 287(g) and would not reinstate it if re-elected.

Candidates against 287(g)

The following candidates have said they do not support the 287(g) program and will not reinstate it: Democrats Joe Coley, Cedric Herring, Tommy Matthews, Willie Rowe, and Roy Taylor.

Rowe, 62, and Matthews, 68, also said they would not honor ICE’s detention requests.

“We have a federal process to conduct this business to make a decision without detaining a person or removing them from their family,” Rowe told the panel.

“ICE is able to do its own job without bringing in the men and women who work in the sheriff’s office,” Matthews said.

Herring, 53, cited mass racial profiling issues that were documented after the 1996 immigration reform laws passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, from which 287(g) stemmed.

Some candidates, however, said they could honor an ICE detainee, depending on the circumstances.

Coley, 51, said he would honor an ICE detainee if he felt a suspect in custody “is a danger to the community”.

He said he sympathized with the Latino audience on the panel, saying he knew immigrants were “just trying to work hard, raise a family, get ahead and get ahead,” based on his work experience. with Hispanics.

Taylor, a law enforcement veteran and current head of the private Capitol Special Police, said he will “work with ICE on investigations” related to human trafficking cases. Taylor, 59, described his past experience cooperating with ICE to pursue suspects who smuggled people into the United States for exploitation.

Candidates who say yes

Harrison, who served as sheriff for 16 years, reiterated his support for the program, saying he was Wake County’s lead for the first partnership with ICE.

Before adopting the program, Harrison, 76, said he was “letting people out on the streets who were wanted for many crimes”, some of whom he said were “child molesters”.

“The way this program works is if you’re breaking the law, that’s when you get involved with 287(g),” he said. “I don’t know how to divide families and the whole nine yards is not for me… I will do any job to make sure you are safe.”

Randolph Baity is the only Democratic candidate to declare support for reinstating 287(g).

“I know that’s not a popular answer,” said Baity, 46. “The pros and cons came and went. What I learned about this particular program is that its goal is to catch the cartels, the drug dealers.

As sheriff, Baity said he would need to enforce “not just certain laws” and that “at the end of the day, I have to feel that all citizens of Wake County are protected.”

Republican candidate David Blackwelder, 36, was not on the panel but told The News & Observer he would only use the 287(g) program in certain circumstances involving violent crimes.

“If the violation is a non-violent offense, I don’t think they should be turned over to ICE. The acts of violence should be the (determining) factor,” Blackwelder said in a direct message via Twitter.

Republican candidate Tivon Howard was not present on the panel of candidates. Howard’s campaign did not return requests for comment from The N&O. His campaign site says he would honor ICE detainees.

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Aaron Sánchez-Guerra is a breaking news reporter for The News & Observer and previously covered business and real estate for the paper. His experience includes reporting for WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a freelance journalist in Raleigh and Charlotte covering Latin American communities. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, a native Spanish speaker, and was born in Mexico. You can follow his work on Twitter at @aaronsguerra.

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