Local News

Wake County Sheriff to Crack Down on Illegal Immigration

Posted October 17, 2007 11:16 p.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2007 5:33 a.m. EDT

— Wake County plans to launch its own crackdown on illegal immigration. Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Wednesday he is working out plans to have deputies start policing immigration issues.

Harrison is among a growing group of North Carolina sheriffs getting into the business of enforcing federal Immigration laws. They are part of a partnership that gives local authorities access to an immigration database.

State troopers said an accident on Interstate 40 in July is an example of a tragic pattern playing out on North Carolina's roadways and involving illegal immigrants.

The man charged in the fatal accident turned out to be an illegal immigrant driving drunk. At the time of his arrest, Michael Delatorre had a fake ID and had already been deported twice in the past three years.

“That’s what concerns me,” Harrison said. “I have to look at it for safety reasons.”

Harrison said he is quite sure there are a number of people sitting in his jail who may have committed a crime in another state, but the department is having trouble identifying them. He believes the database will help detectives get to the source of that information.

North Carolina is home to the nation's eighth-largest illegal immigrant population – estimated at 300,000 to 600,000 people.

Marisol Jimenez-McGee is an advocate for the Hispanic community. News that Wake County will be doing an illegal immigration crackdown is concerning, she said.

“Word of mouth about the possibility of being targeted [is] going to spread so quickly that people would be afraid to report crimes in which they are victims to law enforcement officers,” she said.

Harrison said he doesn't see it that way.

“We just want to know the people that’s committing crime, who they really are,” he said.

Hispanic advocates said they are also concerned about what type of crimes will be included in the crackdown.

Harrison said training could take five to six weeks. There was no word on when that will start or how many deputies will be trained.