Rockingham County announced it signed an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that will assist the agency in deporting undocumented immigrants.
It's the first county in the state to do so and the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office is proud of it.
"I tend to believe that when you identify a criminal offender in your community, and you remove that person from your community, whether it be illegal or not, you're making your community safer," Sheriff Sam Page said. "So I'm doing my part in another layer of crime prevention and safety, public safety for the citizens."
Last year, Page was the state chairman of President Donald Trump's re-election campaign. Page said he thinks this partnership will take off.
"After today, we will see more sheriff's offices across not only North Carolina, but across America," he said. "This program has been underway for about three years in development, working with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the National Sheriff's Association and also ICE officials and I'm proud to be able to push this program out."
The partnership with ICE assigns 10 local deputies in the Rockingham County Detention Center to use resources that'll identify undocumented immigrants in jail and report them to the federal government.
ICE issues special federal arrest warrants for undocumented immigrants. Once they've been notified, ICE has 48 hours to take the undocumented person and begin deportation.
Executive Associate Director of Enforcement Removal Operations for ICE, Henry Luccero made it clear that the sheriff's deputies won’t be out in the community rounding up undocumented immigrants.
"In reality, they're serving ICE paperwork on the aliens, that telling them that there's a warrant of arrest for them or warrant removal and allowing ICE that limited time to come pick up these individuals that have been identified and take them into ICE custody," he said.
Rockingham County is the 49th county in this program. Luccero said they're helping keep their communities safer.
"No one wants criminal aliens that have been identified by ICE to be released back into the communities where they can potentially reoffend," he said. "This program and others like it help to prevent crimes from happening. Luckily this county is not a sanctuary jurisdiction like some counties in North Carolina, who do not work with ICE and choose to not work with ice and rather release criminals back into the communities."
Immigrant rights' groups across the state are condemning the partnership.
"We just see this as another form of trying to do ICE's work and again, serving to work for the Trump administration's agenda to deport people in our community to separate families," Citlaly Mora of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said. "So I think that's our biggest concern that, you know, it's pretty clear to us what, what the intentions of this program are."
The ACLU and other immigrant rights' groups, like Siembra, NC will continue to monitor these partnerships with ICE.
"Our detention hotline regularly gets calls from people detained on ICE holds in Sam Page’s jail, and we have supported several families of people held for pickup by ICE after they had been declared free to go by local magistrates," Kelly Morales of Siembra NC said in a statement. "This agreement will build on his current practice of violating the 4th Amendment rights of immigrants in Rockingham County. It won’t make anyone safer, if anything, it will undermine the already limited trust in local law enforcement."
This agreement will not put ICE officers in Rockingham County jails unlike the four counties— Cabarrus, Gaston, Henderson and Nash— that do allow it as part of their 287g program. ICE also pays Alamance County more than two million dollars to house detainees.