ICE protesters direct anger, frustration at Durham County sheriff

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The protesters directed heated messages at the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

Dozens of protesters from Durham gathered in downtown Durham to protest three controversial items:

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  • Video visitations in the Durham County Detention Center

  • Durham County collaborations with ICE in detaining undocumented residents

  • and inmates who die while in custody

"These demands are not a lot to ask, in fact, they are what we need for our community to feel safe," says Daniella Hernandez Blanco of Alerta Migratoria, a nonprofit that aids those seeking asylum in North Carolina and in the United States.

"This has been going on since the Obama Administration, these immigration concerns are not new," Hernandez said. "From October 2012, to November 2015 over 480 ICE holds were honored in Durham County - which means 480 members of our community were transferred from the Durham Jail to ICE Custody."

In an effort to emphasize their point, Gema Ramirez, a college-bound 17-year-old from Mexico living in Durham, recounted her current ordeal involving ICE and her mother to the crowd.

"She got arrested for something she didn't do. She was just seeking help and she got charged with simple assault, and my mom has never had a criminal record and she's been here for 17 years," said Ramirez as she held back tears.

"It's going to be really tough. It's our first birthday without our mother," she added.

Although the crowd gathered peacefully, Raziq Zaidi who said he is a member of the Nation of Islam, aimed his criticisms toward Durham County Sheriff Michael Andrews.

"You should resign. We don't want you in our community anymore! We have had enough! We will burn this damn city down to the ground," Zaidi yelled to mild chants of support.

David Theuer, an organizer of the protest, told ABC 11 he would like to see county commissioners take action.

"(They) have budgetary powers over the sheriff's office and they can take action and use that power to force him to act on these issues."

In a rebuttal, Sheriff Andrews sent ABC 11 an email that reads:

"I appreciate and respect the activist spirit of Durham County and I support any individual's right to peaceably assemble. I am always listening and considering feedback from both supporters and critics of the Sheriff's Office.

As President Trump issues new executive orders, the Sheriff's Office will continue to review the impact of those directives on all of its residents-undocumented and documented-because the Sheriff's Office serves the entire community, residents from every corner of Durham County."


Video visitation will launch this fall on October 15. The Sheriff and the planning team have discussed some potential dates. The Sheriff's Office will make an announcement soon and use a variety of methods to share user instructions with the public well in advance of the official launch. Contrary to information disseminated by some groups, visitors will still be able to visit with their loved one in person in addition to using video visitation.

Sheriff Andrews believes the laws of our county, state, and nation should be applied equally. This is top of mind for him as he weighs the statutory obligations of the Sheriff's Office, and most importantly, his obligation to all Durham County residents regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, sexual orientation, income or education level.

Sheriff Andrews is aware, engaged, and listening to the concerns over whether his office should honor detainers. His Command Staff closely monitors and considers immigration issues. For example, Sheriff Andrews recently declined an invitation from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to participate in the 287(g) program. In May, Sheriff Andrews contacted state lawmakers to lobby against language in Senate Bill 145, pending legislation that would not allow him or other law enforcement agencies to accept the Faith ID, an alternative form of identification for immigrant residents.

It's important to the Sheriff that residents have a clear understanding of what the Agency does. The federal government has activated, deactivated and reactivated program names. For this reason, the Sheriff's Office has consistently shared its fingerprint process with residents, elected officials, journalists, bloggers and writers for advocacy publications, leaders of Hispanic/Latino advocacy groups, and political action committees in Durham.

Here's how the fingerprint process works at the detention facility:

1. An arrestee is processed and fingerprinted.

2. Fingerprints and booking information are sent electronically to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The Sheriff's Office does not have the option to out-in or opt-out of the state's fingerprint database.

3. The SBI forwards the information on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who disseminates it to other federal agencies including Homeland Security.

4. If ICE is interested in the arrestee, their fingerprint is flagged in the fingerprint database.

5. The federal government will determine their status and issue a detainer. ICE must serve an administrative arrest warrant before a detainer is honored.

6. An arrestee is allowed to leave the facility (on bond or per a magistrate's or judge's order) as long as a detainer has not been received.

7. If a detainer is received, the detainee will remain in custody until their case is adjudicated.

8. Once all charges (for any county, or state) have been adjudicated, ICE is notified (by the arresting agency). There's a 48-hour deadline, including holidays and weekends for ICE to take custody of the arrestee.


Here's what we'd like you to know:
  • By law, a deputy is only required to determine a person's immigration status if a person is arrested for a felony or an impaired driving offense (boating included).

  • Typically, the Sheriff's Office is only made aware of a person's status if they are processed at the detention facility. During the booking process, fingerprints in a statewide database are checked to determine whether a person has other outstanding criminal charges.

  • The Sheriff's Office does not have the ability to opt in or to opt out of the state's fingerprint database. The State of North Carolina coordinates the fingerprint database.

Sheriff Andrews shares your opinion that the debate over immigration on the national level has created heightened anxiety and fear in our community. Last December, Sheriff Andrews created a Hispanic Community Outreach Coordinator to give citizens a direct line to the Sheriff's Office. Since his appointment, our liaison has participated in numerous roundtable discussions, forums and community events. Here are web links we encourage you to read and share with your neighbors:

Sheriff's Office Announces Hispanic Community Outreach Coordinator
Sheriff's Office Hires Bilingual Courthouse Navigator
Sheriff's Office Accepts Faith ID
Related Topics:
politicsICEimmigrationdeportationprotestdurham county newsDurhamDurham County
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