HENDERSONVILLE, NC (WSPA) – Some local and state advocates gathered in Hendersonville Monday calling for an end to an agreement between their leaders and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as I.C.E.
“Our people are suffering. I have people in my office telling me they will not call the police and they will not call the firefighters,” said Sergio Fernandez, El Centro Henderson County Executive Director. “Whatever is happening in their house at that moment is much better than being deported to their native country. That is something we cannot stand behind.”
The rally was held on the steps of the Historic Courthouse downtown.
Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin said the 287(g) program allows deputies to identify undocumented immigrants after they’re in jail.
“We do not want 287(g) in our county,” said Gayle Kemp. “We are here to demand that sheriff Griffin, who was elected by our vote, not sign on to 287(g). We are here to shout out that our tax money should never be used to put families in fear, to keep children from schools, to keep those in need of medical care from healthcare, and those who labor to benefit our community from their jobs.”
Opponents said it will hurt the community and create division.
“We know that when law enforcement officers get involved in federal immigration law it creates fear and mistrust in our communities and it hurts public safety,” said Alissa Ellis, Regional Immigrant Rights Strategist at the ACLU of North Carolina. “It damages the relationship between the community and law enforcement and it diverts precious local resources.”
The proposed 2019-2020 budget includes an increase of $116,965 in funding for the sheriff’s office and $468,799 in funding for the jail.
The sheriff says the increased funding will not go to the 287(g) program.
“”We have created one position that will work in administering the 287 g program. That’s all,” said Sheriff Griffin. “Outside of that, we have also created a position that’s actually a community liaison targeting the Latino community.”
He said the additional funds, if approved by county leaders, will be used towards state mandated requirements, supporting DSS, serving parks, animal services, and additional personnel to adequately cover shifts.
“We’re here to serve everyone of every demographic,” Griffin said, adding he hopes the liason can help diminish the fear in some communities.
The sheriff announced in April that he’s renewing his department’s agreement with I.C.E. to continue 287(g) program.
People held signs calling for an end to the program during the rally Monday.
“That is their right to do so and we support their right to do so as long as they obtain the proper permits and they do it in a peaceful manner,” said Sheriff Griffin, adding that the group was not properly permitted for Monday’s event. “At that point they’re just asked to move back to the public sidewalk.