11 released from Durham jail after sheriff ends policy of honoring immigration holds

A week after the Durham County sheriff announced a new policy of no longer holding people in the jail for federal immigration officials, 11 people were released without the immigration hold, the Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

After Sheriff Clarence Birkhead was sworn in, he directed his office Dec. 6 to end the longstanding policy of honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.

Detainers are a tool used by ICE to apprehend people who are in the country illegally. The ICE detainers request that a local jail or other law enforcement agency detain an individual for an additional 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, after his or her release date to provide ICE agents time to take them into custody.

Since Birkhead’s directive went into effect, nine individuals were released after posting bond and two after serving their sentence, the Sherriff’s Office said in a news release.

The directive advised that people in the jail wouldn’t be detained without a court order or arrest warrant signed by a judicial official.

Birkhead was among other sheriffs, including in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, elected on a platform that included a promise to reduce cooperation with ICE officials. They said they no longer would honor detainers or would end participation in the 287 (g) program, in which local law enforcement officers collaborate with federal officials to enforce immigration laws.

New Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker announced Dec. 7 that the office would end participation in the 287(g) program.

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Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.