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Alamance County residents spar over illegal immigration

Posted August 18, 2008
Updated August 19, 2008

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— Tempers flared Monday evening before the Alamance County Board of Commissioners over illegal immigration. Some people say that enforcing the law is tearing families apart, while others say law enforcement officers are just doing their jobs.

People speaking in support of their undocumented neighbors told stories of men and women being deported after being stopped for minor crimes.

"A large segment of this community is now afraid," a Latino person told the commissioners.

"Families are being torn apart," another person told the crowd.

Others spoke in favor of law enforcement efforts. Their stories were of crimes committed by people who are illegally in the country.

"My wife gets a letter. There are two individuals in this country illegally using her Social Security number,” a person told the crowd.

In the middle of the debate was Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson.

"This is absurd and goes against the very moral fiber our country was founded upon,” he said of illegal immigration.

The sheriff said he is unapologetic for enforcing immigration laws and for using the so-called Section 287(g) program. That initiative by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency trains local authorities to quickly identify inmates in county jails who are in the country illegally and to handle the paperwork needed to begin deportation proceedings.

An Alamance County librarian was recently arrested and later pleaded guilty to misuse of a Social Security number.

Last month, an Alamance County deputy arrested a Hispanic woman after a traffic stop on Interstate 85, leaving her three children in a car along the highway. Their father picked them up eight hours later.

Authorities said the woman, who identified herself as Maria Chavira Ventura, spoke limited English and was driving with expired tags and without any form of identification, registration or proof of insurance. She gave the deputy an address in Burlington and said someone could pick up the children, authorities said.

Ventura, whose real name is Maria Perez-Mejia, actually was traveling from her home in western North Carolina to Maryland to visit the children's father when she was stopped. A man from her church who was traveling with the family left the children shortly after the deputy took their mother off to jail.

Perez-Mejia is in the process of being deported. Her three children remain with relatives in the U.S.

The incidents have pit county leaders against one another, with a public exchange during Monday's meeting between Johnson and County Commissioner Larry Sharpe.

"You have gotten people stirred up by saying the sheriff's office profiles," Johnson said to Sharpe.

"I don't know if you do or not sheriff. Because you telling me you don't, I don't know that is true," Sharpe responded.

Allegations have also surfaced that Alamance County Department of Health employees have provided illegal aliens with work papers under assumed names. An probe by three investigating agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigation, reported Monday that no violations were discovered. A memo also pointed to a lack of direction on how to deal with undocumented people.

No decisions regarding how to handle illegal immigration in Alamance County were reached Monday evening.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • AtALost Aug 20, 2008

    I guess we should get rid of prisons/jails too. Putting people in there tears families a part. The solution is to tighten our borders and deal with illegal immigration quickly before they have time to have a bunch of children, etc. They know they are doing wrong when they sneak over here. Someone in another thread claimed we'd lose a lot of luxuries if they were all deported. He mentioned things like clean offices, cheap fast food, etc. He should have said clean looking offices because their idea of clean and mine are vastly different. But there are Americans who will do those jobs. It's just that the CEOs want to take advantage of illegals and pay them next to nothing so they can keep all the profit. That's why this is even debated. Businesses, etc. line the pockets of elected officials so they are sympathetic to their cause.

  • genesmith Aug 20, 2008

    Way to go Alamance county it's about time somebody actually enforced the law. The down side is us folks here in Orange and other surrounding counties will probably suffer from the results. More illeagals!!

  • ibbott41 Aug 20, 2008

    Good job Sheriff. your cooperation is appreciated and the need is greater. Is Wake county next?

  • Just Once Aug 20, 2008

    Profiling works for me. Stop them for a tail light and throw them out. Works all day long for me.

  • MSN93 Aug 20, 2008

    Way to go Sheriff!! I hope Wake County and all other counties in NC will aggressively work to deport illegals. Why do we have to wait for them to commit another crime before they can be deported? They already committed a crime when they crossed the border without going through legal channels. And I'm sorry-if you don't want your family split up, don't take the risk and come here illegally.

  • Tarheel born Aug 20, 2008

    Profiling works! Who cares what illegal aliens think or those that try to convince others they are doing nothing wrong. Breaking the law is just that - breaking the law. Do the crime - do the time!!

  • Tarheel born Aug 20, 2008

    Go getem' Sheriff. You're doing a great job! Too bad that families may be 'torn' apart. That's the risk you take when you violate the law. Go to jail and/or be deported. I've no sympathy for those who break the immigration laws. They are slowly but surely eroding the very foundations of the United States of America. Show them no mercy!

  • bnorris6 Aug 20, 2008

    I applaude the Alamance Law Enforcement for doing their job..More of our officer should be doing the same. Illegal is illegal and I don't care if they call it profiling...I say go to they communities they because they tend to live and congregate in the same apartment complexes and start busting them..if they can't provide citizenship or legality for being in this country/state then deport them..sure to bring a large bus because you will need it, because in one concetrated area one swoop and you will find a entire tribe of them..Deport this sponges out of this state and show them North Carolina is no longer going to be a safe haven for you illegals.....Free ride is OVER!!!

  • enigma1469 Aug 20, 2008

    Why not profile 9 out of 10 are illegal. Its the same principle of seeing a $50,000 Escalade in the projects. More than likely they are doing wrong.

    Regardless I am glad they are getting rid of one more. No one is making her kids stay. Send them with her.

  • tomm175 Aug 20, 2008

    This is a hard issue as we came and took this land as our own. On one hand I think anyone that can make it here and get a job deserves their chance at living in America. It does suck that they end up costing tax payers money and using our system without paying taxes though...

    One thing is for sure, the children of these families should be sent back with them. IT IS very wrong to send a child's parents back across the border and leave the children here with their relatives.