Local Politics

Wake, Durham sheriffs move away from immigration programs

Posted December 7, 2018 7:28 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2018 8:17 p.m. EST

— The Wake County Sheriff's Office no longer participates in a federal program in which local law enforcement agencies check the immigration status of people they've arrested.

Meanwhile, the Durham County Sheriff's Office will no longer recognize orders issued by federal authorities to keep people believed to be in the country illegally in the county jail.

"It's about caring for people," new Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker of his decision to withdraw from the 287(g) program. "That's going to be a huge part of what this office is about moving forward."

Baker campaigned on ending the 287(g) program in the county, saying it only discourages Latino people from inviting law enforcement into their community to fight crime because they fear being deported.

"It totally defeats our purpose when we've got people in this county who need us, and they're more concerned about deportation than allowing us to come and help them," he said.

"If you break the law, it doesn't matter what color you are, what community you live in, what country you're from – none of those things matter," he said. "We're here to uphold the law."

About 90 inmates in the Wake County jail are under detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which require them to be kept in jail for at least 48 hours after when they would normally be released to give immigration agents time to take them into custody.

Paul Gessner, legal counsel for the sheriff's office, said the jail has to honor those existing detainers, but no more will be recognized under Baker's leadership.

New Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead similarly said he won't honor any more ICE detainers. He signed an order Thursday that, absent of a court order or arrest warrant signed by a judicial official, anybody who has had their criminal charges disposed of or who has made bond won't be held in jail beyond the normal timetable for release.