Wake County Sheriff forum addresses concerns of Latino voters

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Thursday, September 8, 2022
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When it comes to the race for Wake County Sheriff, immigration enforcement carries the conversation for Latino Voters.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When it comes to the race for Wake County Sheriff, immigration enforcement carries the conversation for Latino Voters.

Paola Rodriguez with Enlace Latino NC described it as one of the most important issues of this race. It was the main topic at a political forum Wednesday night, hosted by El Centro Hispano and Enlace Latino NC. She said the forum allowed voters to hear from the candidates vying for the position.

"We tend to associate Latinos with like fear? But we want to understand, and let them understand what the real role of the sheriffs are," Rodriguez said.

Democratic Candidate Willie Rowe and Republican Donnie Harrison answered a range of questions from school and public safety to the controversial 287-G program. The program allowed deputies to act as federal immigration agents, screening the immigration status of people in county jails.

Rowe, reaffirmed his position to not reinstate the program, and Harrison also agreed to not bring the program back, which is a change of heart from his previous term as sheriff.

"We want to know a little bit of more information about what is going on. And why did he switch? We want to also understand a little bit more about this program," said Rodriguez.

Rowe told voters Wednesday night that 287-G was not an effective program.

"It hasn't been productive in removing the most dangerous people from our community. So, we need a plan that's going to really address threats, not focus so much on immigration, but focus on criminal conduct, and build relationships with all our communities," explained Rowe.

Harrison called the program obsolete. He said he would rely on the background check technology at the city-county bureau of investigations.

"287 -G is gone. I did my homework before I decided to run. It is gone," said Harrison. "I made a ton of phone calls and they're not taking any applications to 287-G. Not even using two at 287-G. So, I checked with CCBI and other places, because what I'm trying to do is make sure that no person wanted gets out of jail that's wanted, keeping the dangerous people in jail."

Candidates also shared their plans for school safety. Parents said, the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas remains top of mind.

"I'm doing my homework, now," said Harrison. "I've got a team of people just working with me on training, mental health, everything that I can think of. I've been there, I've done it."

Rowe described his approach to school safety.

"I think if we examine the threats that are happening, they don't originate from any school, they come from outside and come in. So, I think we need to address the threat outside. And once I talked with all the stakeholders, we make a determination, do we need SROs inside the school or out? I prefer my officers to be outside of school at a point of entry," Rowe said.

Wednesday night's forum was the first of several political forums scheduled to address the concerns of the Latino community ahead of the November 22 midterm elections.