Durham County

Don’t give Alamance sheriff immigration authority, ACLU says

North Carolina’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking federal officials to reject an application from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office to re-enter a program that would allow the office to enforce federal immigration laws.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Sarah M. Gillooly, policy director for the ACLU, said the sheriff’s office “has a long history of egregious civil rights violations, and we are deeply troubled that the Department of Homeland Security would consider renewing the jurisdiction’s participation in the 287(g) program.”

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson Ethan Hyman The News & Observer

The sheriff’s office previously had an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But in 2012, the federal Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry S. Johnson alleging that his office routinely targeted and discriminated against Latinos.

In its complaint, the Justice Department found that the sheriff’s office unlawfully targeted Latino drivers at traffic stops. The Justice Department found that deputies were between four and 10 times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latino drivers; that deputies arrested Latinos for minor traffic violations while issuing citations or warnings to non-Latinos for comparable violations; and that the department used vehicle checkpoints in a discriminatory manner to target Latinos.

On Nov. 11, the Trump administration is scheduled to consider applications from Alamance and 25 other local law enforcement agencies, including Nash County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina, to join the 287(g) program. The Department of Homeland Security allows civil rights groups to comment on applications, and the North Carolina ACLU “weighed in with that letter,” said Mike Meno, spokesman for the ACLU.

“We are opposed to the 287(g) program across the board because it encourages abuses and bad policing,” Meno said.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1