WNC Sheriff to renew I.C.E. agreement


HENDERSON COUNTY, NC (WSPA) – The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office plans to renew it’s agreement with federal immigration authorities.

“We’re not out here to check immigration status and to make any arrests based on immigration status,” said Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin. “The false narratives are there that we’re out there basically trolling our immigrant communities looking to pick people up and that’s simply not true.”

He said he expects it stay that way as they renew an agreement to continue the 287(g) program through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.).

“The 287G program is just am agreement between the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security that allows us to do the research on the background of a person after they’ve been arrested, after they’ve entered our detention facility to check their immigration status,” said Sheriff Griffin. 

He says deputies have no authority to check someone’s immigration status before they’re jailed.

Previously, the sheriff expressed concerns over the cost of the program, saying the department gets no federal funding for the five trained deputies with 287(g).

During a March commission meeting, Commissioner Charles Messer expressed support for the program asking the sheriff if $250,000 would cover the needs for two more employees. 

Griffin responded that the amount would be a little more than the cost he’d anticipate. 

Chairman Hawkins said whatever funding the sheriff needed the board would find it, but the final decision was the sheriff’s. 

“As we look to renew this agreement, we have looked at ways and strategies that we can use to make this process work and to make this process actually affordable,” Griffin said. 

He said 287(g) can help remove a criminal element in the community. 

“Once we identify these after they’ve been arrested, and we place these detainers, then the federal government can pick that up and go through the deportation hearings and the deportation process,” said Griffin. 

Hendersonville-based immigration attorney George Pappas said while he supports the sheriff, he disagrees this policy. 

“The 287(g) is an act of terror by the county commissioners,” said Pappas. “The people that cook our food, repair our cars, clean our lawns, wait our tables, paint our houses, these are the immigrants that have build henderson. To just stab them in the back like this with an unconstitutional act is reprehensible.”

Pappas said it can end up costing taxpayers. 

“287(g) is not going to make this community safer. It takes resources away from law enforcement to work with the community,” said Pappas. 

The sheriff says he hopes hiring a community liaison will help alleviate the fear immigrant communities have with law enforcement. 

“It’s frustrating to know that we’re here to serve all the people, regardless of demographic, we’re here to provide the resources we have to serve the people of this county,” said Griffin. “Nobody should be a victim of a crime and be afraid to report that to law enforcement.” 

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