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ICE answers Chatham critiques of immigrant-arrest program

Posted January 20, 2009

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— Prompted by criticisms from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners when it voted against participating in a federal-local program for apprehending illegal aliens, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sunday offered its responses.

The commissioners recently voted against taking part in the program, saying that doing so could have negative consequences for the community. Chatham has a significant Latino population.

"These unintended consequences do, in fact, occur, especially when you don't have the wherewithal to properly enforce the laws – and we don't here in Chatham County,” said George Lucier, commissioners chairman.

Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE, issued a statement to WRAL saying, "We at ICE feel that it is very important for your viewers to have both sides of the story."

“We fully support local law enforcement’s duty to uphold the law," Lucier said. "At the same time, we commend our law enforcement leaders for not participating in the optional ICE program, because it has helped us avoid some problems that other communities are facing.”

Among those problems, said Margie Ellison, who chairs the county’s Human Relations Commission, is that the "ICE detention process may separate family members, including abrupt separations of children from their parents."

"In carrying out our nation's laws, ICE officers and agents exercise discretion when cases involve sole caregivers. There have been many instances when ICE has placed a sole caregiver on an alternative to detention while their cases are in proceedings," Gonzalez said. "There are times, however, when ICE cannot place sole caregivers on alternatives to detention due to legal prohibitions. It is important for the public to remember that it is parents who place their children in difficult situations by knowingly breaking the law. Those who violate the law know that there are consequences for their actions."

A 2007 joint study released by the National Council of La Raza and The Urban Institute found that children suffer psychologically and economically when their parents are detained.

"All of those who are arrested by ICE for being illegally present in the country have full due process of law," Gonzalez said. She added that detainees get information about legal help they can have and are given handbooks that tell them their rights.

Other problems that the commissioners noted were violations of civil rights and liberties, distrust of law enforcement by  immigrants and racial profiling.

"Unless funds, training and appropriate authority are granted to local governments, it is really not our place to enforce the immigration laws,” Lucier said.

Gonzalez said ICE does not do racial profiling. It does targeted enforcement based on investigations and intelligence, she said.

The City of Durham, as well as Wake, Alamance, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg and Orange counties are taking part in the ICE program. ICE provides funding and training for those participants.


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  • lorivalentine1 Jan 30, 2009

    So Chatham county admits they do not enforce the laws?? How nice for them.. Now I know where not to go ever... And oh by the way, to not do somethi0ng because you have an overhwelming problem population is completey bogus and a copout.. Fix the issues by doing the right thing and not ignoring it!

  • 3potato4 Jan 21, 2009

    Pick and choose the laws you want to obey and uphold...nice. Hey, can the rest of us do that, too?

  • Con Amor Jan 21, 2009

    Or should I say the "real invaders" made across OUR land. (Because I do realize that it was not only done by the caucasion invaders).

  • Con Amor Jan 21, 2009

    Ask any native american "what did you call the country before it was called America?" He will tell you "ours"" .... And being mostly native American myself, I will tell you what I, and most of my family, think.. Look at us, and look at the latinos. We are the same color, and have many of the same features, and all of our ansestors come from the same peice of land That now makes up Canada, the US, Mexico, Guatamala, El Salvador, Honduras, and so on and so on...It is my opinion, that we are all entitled to be here, and cross the lines that the white man, made across OUR land.

  • Warden Jan 21, 2009

    I couldn't agree with the ICE more. No-one else who commits a crime gets to hide behind parenthood to escape enforcement... not even people who commit non-violent crimes. I agree that once the parent is deported, if the children have no legal guardian left, they should be sent back with the parent in question. The families won't be 'broken up' that way.

  • bngexpress Jan 21, 2009

    every drop of federal money should be removed from chatham co . today,let's see how quick they jump on board then. it's clod hearted BUT the criminal immigrants that are here or that have sent back knew the chance they were taking, and further more,if family was that important to them,one they wouldn't take such a chance, second they can always sell their new escalade , or excursion and bring their family's with them,our social systems are already over burdened,especially with people that are not paying anything into the system.

  • shep8851 Jan 21, 2009

    Why is everyone so upset over the actions of this particular governmental body??? They are doing nothing any worse than both the state and federal governments in aiding and abetting the continued presence of illegal aliens in this nation. If they don't have to follow the law, why should I???

  • ibbott41 Jan 21, 2009

    It is sad that restaurants all over NC only hire illegal aliens who do not even speak English while our American students cannot find jobs and they have to compete for a place in a class. Continuing education programs paid with federal funds are filled to capacity with illegal aliens. Boycott restaurants anyone?

  • scientistjo Jan 21, 2009

    yall need to get off your high horses.

  • ksillsbury Jan 21, 2009

    Chatham county must be hiding something. their leaders all have illegals working for them. the illegal parents of those children have put their childern in that position themselves. our tax dollars and jobs are at stake. these are hard times that require hard decisions, legal decisions. Americans need those jobs, tax paying Americans. All we can ofer those illegals is to send their families back with them, or to be able to visit their parents in jail. thats more than you'll get in any other country.