Local News

ICE arrests several people released from Wake jail

Posted February 14, 2020 6:55 p.m. EST

— Federal immigration agents arrested 16 people in Wake County in the past week, including four who had been released from the county jail despite requests to hold on to them, authorities said Friday.

U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon said eight of the 16 had previously been deported, and all had been arrested previously on charges ranging from driving while impaired to burglary to assault to robbery.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement typically asks law enforcement to keep anyone who has been arrested and may be in the country illegally in jail for a day or two so immigration agents can begin deportation proceedings against them.

But such detainers are voluntary and aren't court orders, so Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker has refused to honor them since he took office at the beginning of last year. Working with ICE, he has said, strains the relationship between his deputies and the local Latino community.

Higdon said the Wake County Sheriff's Office has turned aside 200 detainers in the past 13 months, which forces ICE agents to go into the community to arrest people who face criminal charges and are suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

"This increases the risk of danger to the investigating and arresting agents, increases the risk of danger to the community in which the offender is found and increases the cost and strain on an already overburdened law enforcement system that is tasked with enforcing our immigration laws," Higdon said at a news conference.

A spokesman for Baker declined to comment on the ICE sweep. The sheriff has said in the past that he will follow the law but will not hold people in jail for ICE when they would otherwise be released.

Higdon said he's asking Baker and other North Carolina sheriffs taking a similar stance to reconsider.

"What I’m trying to do is just explain to whoever’s listening how difficult it has become to enforce the law," he said. "This used to be a very low-key way to enforce the law, and by refusing to honor the detainers, it makes it much more dangerous and difficult for everyone involved."

State lawmakers last year tried to require sheriffs to cooperate with ICE or face possible removal from office, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the measure.

The eight people arrested who were previously deported now face federal charges, while the cases against the other eight will be handled by immigration courts, he said.

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