Durham County

‘You should not have to live in fear,’ police chief tells immigrants

Angel Ramirez listens to instruction during El Centro Hispano's Faith ID card event at Holy Family Catholic Church in Hillsborough. Organizers say the Faith ID builds a greater understanding, trust and cooperation between local law enforcement and the community.
Angel Ramirez listens to instruction during El Centro Hispano's Faith ID card event at Holy Family Catholic Church in Hillsborough. Organizers say the Faith ID builds a greater understanding, trust and cooperation between local law enforcement and the community. bthomas@heraldsun.com

Out in the church’s lobby, a gaggle of spellbound little girls played with a young Chapel Hill police officer.

While their parents sat listening in Holy Family Catholic Church’s nave and asking Orange County’s police chiefs questions, the children pointed and pulled on Officer Jennifer Liles utility belt and pleaded with her to keep playing – Cops and Robbers – and making pretend arrests.

The children giggled.

“There are some who want to you to be afraid. There are some who want to you to leave, so they want you to be afraid,” Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton told those in the nave. “You should not have to live in fear.”

The parents applauded.

About 200 people attended Wednesday’s FaithAction ID card drive organized by the Durham-based El Centro Hispano.

Over 10,000 North Carolina residents have the identification cards, said the group’s president and CEO, Pilar Rocha-Goldberg.

The cards are not a driver’s license and cannot be used to vote, nor do Faith IDs entitle holders to welfare benefits.

But many North Carolina residents don’t have or can’t get a state-issued ID, such as refugees, the homeless, people leaving prison and some immigrants. For them, a Faith ID can be a handy item to have in a back-pocket or purse when a need to prove their identification arises.

The Orange and Durham County sheriff’s offices, the Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Durham, Carrboro and UNC Chapel Hill police departments and the local State Highway Patrol have pledged to accept Faith IDs as identification.

To receive a Faith ID, a person must attend a Faith ID Drive, listen to a 30-minute orientation and provide approved proof of address and identification.

El Centro Hispano has provided 2,500 Faith IDs to residents of Durham and Orange counties in the past 18 months.

License problem

The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles stopped accepting the matricula consular, a Mexican ID, as valid identification for a driver’s license in 2007, spokesman John Brockwell wrote in an email.

At Thursday’s meeting, Efrain Aguirre Cortés stood up and said in Spanish he’s lived in Orange County for 20 years. Mauricio Garcia, 16, a student at Middle College High School in Durham, interpreted for him.

“At one time, I had the advantage of having a license, and I’ve paid taxes and insurance all these years.,” Aguirre said. “Now I have had an accident. Do you think that we will have a chance to have a license again?”

“I hope so,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said. “You should be able to drive legally. And your ability to do so drives a wedge between you and us. We know that.”

Blue said when politicians ask Orange County law enforcement officers opinions, most say Hispanics should be able to get a license regardless of their legal status.

“I have a court date in fifteen days,” he said. “I want to go in front of the court and say what I have said to you.”

“You should,” Blue responded. “The court may try to help you.”

Hampton said he personally wrote state representatives, as Hillsborough’s police chief, asking them to look at the license issue.

“You’re not alone,” he told Aguirre. “I know that there are other people here who had a license and the state changed things and they could not get their license renewed.”

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks

  Comments