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ICE ends long-term detentions at the Alamance County jail

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE
Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Story was updated at 3:46 p.m. on March 31.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer use the Alamance County jail for long-term detentions, the agency says.

ICE announced the change Friday in a news release that also stated the agency would no longer use the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama and will limit the use of two other facilities in Florida and Louisiana.

The Alamance County facility will be used for periods of custody under 72 hours if “applicable standards” are met. ICE said the reasons for the change is because of limited operational use and concerns about conditions, including a lack of outdoor recreation.

The ACLU of North Carolina responded to ICE's decision with a statement Friday.

“For years, immigrant advocates and community members have raised the alarm about the horrific conditions, reports of abuse, and serious medical neglect at the Alamance County jail, which reflect the broader anti-immigrant agenda of Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson,” said Stefania Arteaga, regional immigrants' rights strategist for the ACLU of North Carolina in the statement.

The organization also stated it wants to see clear federal action concerning these detentions in Alamance.

“Every day that these facilities remain open jeopardizes the lives of people detained there. That’s why we are calling on the Biden administration to stop detaining immigrants in its custody at the Alamance County Detention Facility and end the voluntary federal 287(g) program, which allows local police to collaborate with ICE,” Arteaga said.

The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to WUNC's request for comment.

Section 287(g) is part of federal legislation that allows the Department of Homeland Security to deputize selected state and local law enforcement officers to enforce U.S. immigration law. The program has been controversial and opposed by many Latino and civil rights organizations.

The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office first joined 287(g) in 2007. In 2012, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office saying it had used racial profiling in traffic stops.

In 2015, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit. About a year later, the Justice Department dropped the legal pursuit after the two sides reached a settlement. Soon after, ICE ended the county’s participation in the 287(g) program.

The Trump administration invited the sheriff's office to rejoin the program but Sheriff Johnson refused. However, the sheriff's office continued to house ICE detainees.

Siembra NC, a pro-Latinx grassroots organization that operates in Alamance and seven other North Carolina counties, called the decision a step in the right direction but believes more needs to be done.

"We won't be satisfied until immigrants aren't detained for profit anywhere in the state," Kelly Morales, executive director of Siembra NC, stated in an email.

The group's plans include getting the community to turn out for Election Day in November when Johnson, for the first time in a dozen years, will face an opponent.

"We'll keep standing up to ICE in the streets and in our neighborhoods, and will stand up to Terry Johnson and others like him by registering and mobilizing our people through the November election," Morales said.

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