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Wake sheriff defends immigration enforcement program

Posted March 12, 2009

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— A congressional report released this month criticizes the way local and state police agencies enforce immigration laws, saying the program is not being used correctly and could lead to officers misusing their authority.

But Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says he believes 287(g) – the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's program that gives local law agencies access to federal immigration databases so they can identify illegal immigrants they have arrested – is doing exactly what it was intended to do.

287g 287(g) working well, sheriff says

Since last July, when it was introduced in Wake County, more than 1,400 people have been identified as illegal, Harrison said.

In a report last week, however, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found immigration officials did not clearly explain to officers how to use their arrest authority under the program, nor did they tell local officers that the program is meant for the pursuit of serious offenders.

Tony Asion, public safety director with the local Hispanic advocacy group El Pueblo, wants to see the program scrapped, saying many people who are being deported were charged with minor violations, not violent crimes.

"We had a gentleman, not too long ago, who got deported for fishing without a license, and they're calling him a criminal," Asion said. "That's not the intent of the program."

Harrison disagrees.

"That's their opinion. In my opinion, here in Wake County, it's doing exactly what it's intended to do," he said. "And that's take criminals off the streets."

Harrison says the sheriff's office does not target Hispanics, but that if they are arrested, their immigration status will be checked.

"When we catch someone, if we think they need to come to the jail, that's where they come. So why should I look at it any differently?" Harrison said. "That's the way we do business. That's the way we protect and serve the citizens. I'm extremely happy with the way the program is running right now."

The congressional report says the big question is whether the results are worth the $40 million required to fund the project.

While startup costs for the Wake County program totaled several hundred thousand dollars, Harrison says it costs a little more than $150,000 to run the program annually. Despite county budget problems, Harrison says 287(g) is one program he intends to keep.

As of October, 67 local and state law enforcement agencies in 23 states had signed agreements to participate in the 287(g) program, and more are on a waiting list.

Cumberland, Alamance and five other counties already participate in the program in North Carolina, and last year, more than 3,000 illegal immigrants were deported from the state.

The 13-year-old program, which carries the name of the section of immigration law where it is described, had one participant through 2002, but grew rapidly in 2007 and 2008, after Congress failed to pass immigration-reform bills.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered a review of several of her department's programs, including the 287(g) partnerships.

Last month, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law released a report criticizing the program, saying it leads to profiling. The authors, however, admitted they have no concrete evidence to prove their claim and that the study is based on anecdotal reports.


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  • lorivalentine1 Mar 13, 2009

    They are breaking the law by being here! END OF STORY. Good for the sheriffs.. Find them all and send them back.

  • WRALSUCKS Mar 13, 2009

    HOORAY for this program. Thanks for enforcing the law, Sheriff. I'm very very pleased to see someone with some fortitide looking out for us.

    What would be even more useful is to figure a way to check the immigration status of those at El Pueblo....

  • thought Mar 13, 2009

    this is an important program- ICE and CIS can only do so much- think about it- there are two offices in NC. Maybe 15 officers in each- so say about 30 officers to investigate, catch, process all illegals in NC. And since they have more 'rights' than we do- it takes longer, only for an immigration judge to let them go. Obama's aunt is still here illegally - he will only make things worse. These groups know this and if local police can catch them- they wil be going a bit faster.
    Fromthesouth, thank you! you are a true example of a great person.
    And one other thing that gets me, I could probably have a job by now if it wasn't required to be bilingual. If they can't speak our language, then they can sit until they learn where they are - legal or illegal.

  • alanths011 Mar 13, 2009

    that program is ridiculous. That's why its going down in a couple months. I'm not going to let my TAXES pay for a stupidity.

  • Americanpatriot Mar 13, 2009

    illegal is illegal and they don't need some pansy , sensitive ,p.c. liberal lobbying for rights.
    I Support Sheriff Harrison.

  • 1carpe Mar 13, 2009

    Sheriff, keep up the great work. Since illegal immigration by definition is illigal, then fishing w/o a license (misdemeanor) led to questions being asked as to status, which in turn led to the discovery of...a criminal. Go figure. I know a liberal out there will enlighten me, but is there an illegal immigration problem with people who are yellow (Asian), Black (not confined to African), or white? If 6 million plus "brown" people are here illegally, then it is reason to ask "brown" people what their citizenship is. Seems reasonable to me, but then again I guess to be "fair", everybody should be asked the same quesion.

  • COPs eye Mar 13, 2009

    I have arrested several folks that were here illegally in NC.YES they were hispanic, No I as not profiling, I dont have to there is enough law breakers out there that we dont have to profile.I respet Tony Asion's position, BUT the fact is that ILLEGAL entry into the US is a CRIME Tony and you were a cop once upon a time...did u fail to do your duty, Tony and maybe let things slide by or pay off here and there...HHHMMMMMM. Unlike Sheriff Bizzell and Sheriff Harrison who have taken the front stand against illegal immigration in our counties the other government will probably take away a program that is working. Especially in Johnston and Wake Counties. Viva 287g.

  • dws Mar 13, 2009

    yes, I forgive.....but all illegals still need to be deported

  • American56 Mar 13, 2009

    GOOD JOB SHERIFF HARRISON!!! I think they should be deported before having an opportunity to commit any minor or major offense. All in favor of buying one way tickets(including one for Asion) with our tax $$$ instead of giving them free everything else that is bankrupting our state....SAY I. We would have plenty of jobs, a cleaner and safer state. Gov. Perdue..you need to wake up and smell the coffee, instead of continuing to allow your big $$$ political supporters and contributors to pad their bank accts. from cheaper illegal labor

  • artist Mar 13, 2009

    "How 'bout you? Got any forgiveness in ya?...or is it all talk?"

    No... I do not. Never said I did.