Alamance Commissioners Back Sheriff's $2.8M Plan To Resume ICE 'Detainer' Deal

Jan 24, 2019

File photo of a prison cell.
Credit Michael Coghlan / Flickr Creative Commons

The Alamance County Board of Commissioners approved a $2.8 million budget for staffing, raises and equipment upgrades, so that the county jail could resume detaining federal immigration inmates.

The local sheriff's office had been an early participant in the federal Section 287(g) program to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrest and detain undocumented immigrants. But the U.S. Department of Justice sued the ACSO in 2012, alleging racial profiling, and the Obama Administration booted it from the program.

On Tuesday, Alamance Sheriff Terry Johnson said it was his duty to pursue a new ICE detainer agreement, saying undocumented immigrants are "raping our citizens in many ways."

"The jails are full all over this nation of immigrants, criminal immigrants, not the people just crossing the border but people that are coming here for a reason: to victimize our children, our citizens with drugs murders, rapes, robberies, you name it," Johnson said.

However, the libertarian CATO Institute found that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. Meanwhile, a report from the journal Crimnology found that an increase in undocumented immigrants correlates with a falling crime rate.

Nevertheless, Sheriff Johnson said it's his duty to support the efforts of ICE.

"Some of the people, including sheriffs in this state and nation, is (sic) saying 'Well, thats not my problem'," Johnson said. "It is their problem, they swore to uphold the law. Whether we like that law or not, we took an oath to uphold that law."

County Manager Brian Hagood says fees from ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service should cover the budget and bring in further revenue.

Saxapahaw resident Kristen Powers spoke out against the plan at Tuesday's meeting.

"While this proposal sounds appealing because of the promise of revenue to counter this $2.8 million in spending, it fails to account for potential litigation and harm to the county's reputation should we misstep and fall into the same traps as these other jails," Powers said.

Courts in have New York and Colorado have determined that such local detainer arrangements are unconstitutional.