Almost 100 people gathered in front of the Wake County jail Saturday evening to protest the sheriff’s department’s participation in the federal 287(g) program. The county-federal partnership allows sheriff’s deputies in the jail to process people suspected of being in the country illegally and forward them to immigration officials.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice organized the demonstration as part of its weekend conference in Durham.
Naeema Muhammad from Rocky Mount attended the conference and helped organize the demonstration. Muhammad, who works for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, said her group opposes the 287(g) program and that they came to Raleigh to show support for the Latino community. Muhammad said that local law enforcement uses racial profiling and that she feels it is “appalling” how people are being treated under the program.
The Wake County Sheriff’s Department reports that 1106 people have been held under the program since Wake County started using it in July. Of those, 846 have been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Eighty-nine year-old protestor Dorothy Youtz of Raleigh said she was very concerned because “present legislation favors picking up people for minor infractions and treating them like hardened criminals.” Youtz said she would like to see an intelligent resolution to the current immigration laws.
Lisa Mowat of Raleigh agreed with Youtz that many people are held by local law enforcement for minor offenses such as traffic violations then taken into federal custody. Mowat argues that the law is unfair because other people would not be arrested for minor offenses. “It seems to me that the law ought to be equally applied,” Mowat said.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says the county’s participation in the federal program has been effective. “I believe that the 287(g) program is working,” Harrison said. Alamance, Cabarrus, Gaston, and Mecklenburg counties also participate in the program.