HENDERSON COUNTY, NC (WSPA) – The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office is trying to improve relationships with the immigrant community through outreach.
The department hired a community outreach coordinator.
“My parents brought me over when I was a little over a year old,” said Stephanie Barbosa, who took over the new role a couple of weeks ago after working with victims at the District Attorney’s office. “I just want to break down the barriers that we have.”
The HCSO is renewing an agreement to continue the 287(g) program through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE.
“I’m not undocumented but I’m afriad for people that I know. I’m afraid for people that come to my office,” said Sergio Fernandex, executive director of El Centro Henderson County.
The sheriff says he wants people to know that the only time deputies will check their immigration status is when they’re booked into the Henderson County jail.
“I believe he has his heart in the right place,” Fernandez said. “But I also don’t think he understands how just having the 287 (g) lingering above everybody is affecting our community.”
The advocate working with ice creates fear, so much so they’re postponing an event because of President Trump announcing raids.
“I prefer to keep the latin community safe,” said Fernandez.
The sheriff says in order to keep the community safe, he hopes the liaison – who also speaks Spanish – will encourage them to report crimes.
“I know people are scared of reporting crimes,” said Barbosa. “They’re scared of reporting breaking and entering cases, they’re scared of reporting assaults, breaking into their cars. They’d just rather not have to deal with police coming out there and taking their reports and information so I kinda just want to break those barriers down where they feel comfortable to say hey we need to call somebody because this isn’t right.”
She said she wants people to feel comfortable contacting her directly.
“Our job is to help people, protect people, and arrest the people that should be arrested,” Barbosa sad.
Fernandez said the hire is a step in the right direction.
Barbosa said she’s now talking to different community groups just to get the word out that she’s available for help.