Local News

Wake to Hire Deputies for Immigration Enforcement

Posted November 5, 2007

— Wake County commissioners on Monday approved a plan to hire 12 deputies so the Sheriff's Office can more quickly identify illegal immigrants who have been charged with crimes.

Sheriff Donnie Harrison requested the additional manpower to carry out a partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The move will cost the county almost $540,000 a year for salaries, benefits and one vehicle, along with start-up costs of about $90,000.

Four other North Carolina counties have signed up for 287-G, an ICE program to train local officers to quickly identify inmates in county jails who are in the country illegally and to handle the paperwork needed to begin deportation proceedings.

"We're looking at the people that are committing crimes, and that's a very important key: They're committing crimes," Harrison said. "I need to know who's in our jails for safety reasons."

The federal government must give its approval before Wake County can officially join program 287-G.

Between 10 to 15 percent of the county's inmate population could be identified as illegal through the program, Harrison said. The City-County Bureau of Identification, which processes inmates for the Wake County Jail, estimated that 17 percent of the 34,000 people arrested in the county each year – almost 5,900 – are foreign born.

In Mecklenburg County, more than half of the foreign-born inmates in its jail were found to be in the U.S. illegally.

Under the proposed program, the 11 deputies and one lieutenant would interview the foreign-national inmates and run their photos and fingerprints through an ICE database to determine their immigration status. They also would prepare the documentation to place those found to be illegal immigrations in deportation proceedings after state charges against them have been resolved.

"Right now, when we process someone here in our jail, we're only going through the SBI, and then it branches off and goes to the FBI," Harrison said. "But if that person is illegal and undocumented in our country, we miss him."

Immigration activists expressed worries that if local law enforcement takes on federal immigration issues, it could create a divide between deputies and the immigrant population.

"What we're hearing from the public is that there is a deep sense of fear," Marisol Jimenez McGee, advocacy director of El Pueblo, said.

"Part of the community they need to protect and serve is going to go underground. They're going to be afraid to cooperate," Jack Pinnix, a Raleigh immigration attorney, said. "We want to know who's among us. We don't want a policy that will drive people further underground."

That divide could detrimentally impact public safety, McGee said.

"This impacts an entire community that will now be afraid of local law enforcement when they're victims of crime and when they're witnesses of crime,"she said. "That makes us all unsafe."

But Tony Gurley, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said the program only sorts out people already charged with crimes and doesn't go after immigrants on the streets.

"This is not hiring deputies to round up people and ask if they're here illegally," he said. "Sheriff Harrison has made (it) clear he has people in our jails who have committed crimes, and he doesn't know who they are."

Harrison pointed to two men he said would have been deported before committing serious crimes if local law enforcement had known about their immigration status.

Juan Gayton-Barbosa was captured by U.S. Marshals in June after being on the run for nearly three years avoiding attempted murder charges. Police said Gayton-Barbosa beat a Raleigh woman with a baseball bat, shot her twice in the stomach and left her for dead. The victim had given him a place to stay at her townhouse off Millbrook Road.

Luciano Tellez, 31, was charged in a hit-and-run in March that killed Jerry Braswell, of Clayton, and his 9-year-old son. Tellez spent time in the Wake County Jail for driving-while-impaired in 2005.

"It is a cost to the Wake County citizens for illegal immigrants to be here, particularly those who have committed crimes. The majority of the public wants that to be addressed," Commissioner Joe Bryan said.

Mecklenburg, Alamance, Gaston and Cabarrus counties already participate in the ICE program.


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  • iamforjustice Nov 7, 2007

    Pleshy...The Navy doesn't have to fight in just water...they are land fighters also. Military is military. We need them to patrol all boarders regardless. I am sick of illegal aliens and drugs that gets across our boarders into our lives.

  • nisa-pizza Nov 7, 2007

    The influx of hispanics to the US was way before NAFTA in the western and southwest area. Look at Texas, Arizona, New Mexico California spreading to the midwest seasonally. The highly offensive terms for Mexican illegals were in use decades before NAFTA. Yes NAFTA may have been one of the catalysts for the growth but most of the migrant workers were hispanics and have been well before NAFTA.

    Various Central American wars and the economy in Mexico and those regions drove the people north to our neck of the woods well before NAFTA. I can't say I agree with some people when they drag NAFTA into this because there are many reasons COMBINED that led to this huge influx and NAFTA was just one of the smaller reasons. Those regions have been extremely poor for many many decades and the illegal immigrants have been coming here (although mostly from Mexico until recently) for many decades also.

  • pleshy Nov 6, 2007

    Iamforjustice - Navy for border patrol? You going to float the USS Enterprise down the Rio Grande and launch air strikes on coyote runners? Maybe put some Aegis Cruisers in the great lakes to take pot shots at the Canadians sneaking across the border?

  • whatusay Nov 6, 2007

    I think American citizens have more respect for our laws than illegal immigrants. As American citizens we would spend many years in prison for what they are getting a pass on. If they commit a crime they are given a free ride home and they return, and many times beat the bus back home. They get another persons SS# and they are technically a "new American citizen", except they do not pay taxes (but they can soon get legal drivers licenses even though they are illegal, thanks to Hillary).

  • COPs eye Nov 6, 2007

    iamforjustice: It is amuzing that you say "incompetent Deputies" when it is the leagal system that is failing not law enfocrement officers. Immigration is a problem because there is no checks and balances. When the sme person has been deported 6 times each time after committing a crime then it is the immigration rules that are failing not law enforcement. It has and does happen. If we used the military to patrol our borders then law enforcement would have more people available to address local crime and prevention. the government is afraid to take a stand on this issue and the only people it hurts is the onest citizens and immigrans that pay taxes and contribute to this country. Yes there are even hardworkers that are here illegally and that is great the only thing that I think everyone can agree on is that they should come here through the correct channels.

  • misslisa200723 Nov 6, 2007

    Sorry moderator i will try again.....

    It all boils down to the laws that we need to follow to live in the U.S. If they are allowed to break them then why can't the citizens go ahead and do it. This is not a "Do as I say not as I do" country this is a country with rules rights constitutional amendments etc., etc. I think there is a lot more going on behind closed doors so hey THANK U DONNIE!!!

  • gordonbabe Nov 6, 2007

    NCgal.. you're on the money! Webster needs to get going on this.

    It almost sounds as if the immigrant immigrant population is threatening to go underground. So? According to law enforcement, they're hard enough to find or at least they can't "target" them because that's racial profiling.

    Give me a break. You broke the law. You shouldn't be here in the first place. Come back the legal way; then we'll talk about what rights you have.

  • Obscurite Nov 6, 2007

    (...cont.) After intense political debate and the negotiation of these side agreements, the U.S. House passed NAFTA by 234-200 (132 Republicans and 102 Democrats voting in favor, 156 Democrats, 43 Republicans, and 1 independent against) and the U.S. Senate passed it by 61-38."

    Thanks for playing...but I do stand corrected that it was GHWB who initiiated it, GWB just didn't learn how bad it has been for the de-industrialization of the US and now wants to make a mistake worse by increasing the breadth of the first mistake."

    And for those that think NAFTA is not related to illegal immagration, do you understand the principle of cause and effect. NAFTA made Mexico bad situation worse ultimately, and where are you going to go when your country is in the toilet, your rich neighbor next door, I guess. Big picture, people...take off your blinders.

  • Obscurite Nov 6, 2007

    Nancy & gimme,
    "NAFTA was initially pursued by conservative governments in the United States and Canada supportive of free trade, led by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, U.S. President George H. W. Bush, and the Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. The three countries signed NAFTA in December 1992, subject to ratification by the legislatures of the three countries. There was considerable opposition in all three countries, but in the United States it was able to secure passage after Bill Clinton made its passage a major legislative initiative in 1993. During his presidential campaign he had promised to review the agreement, which he considered inadequate. Since the agreement had been signed by Bush under his fast-track prerogative, Clinton did not alter the original agreement, but complemented it with the aforementioned NAAEC and NAALC. (cont...)

  • iamforjustice Nov 6, 2007

    Atozca...a sigh of intelligence...thank you.