City leaders are standing by all Durham residents in the wake of immigration raids that have arrested at least 25 people in the Triangle in the past week.
On Monday night Durham's first Latina member of the City Council, Javiera Caballero, also became the first person to read a statement from the council in Spanish before translating it into English.
"It has been a hard few days in our state," she began in English, before reading the statement.
Caballero talked about a Durham woman who opened the door to ICE agents after hearing noise outside, and feels guilty for doing so. Her brother and a family friend were detained, and everyone in the apartment had to show identification to ICE. The woman's brother is being held at ICE's Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, Caballero said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald Sun
While Caballero spoke, five people in the audience silently held up signs that said "No human being is disposable" and "No time restrictions on U-Visas." U-Visas let victims of certain crimes remain in the U.S. to help government prosecution of crimes. It was created with the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.
Caballero and Mayor Steve Schewel worked on the statement together. After she read the statement in Spanish, he read it in English.
"Durham is a city that is about to be 150 years old, in a year, and I believe that was the first speech given from this podium — aside from my occasional lousy Spanish — in Spanish, and I think that is a landmark moment and we need to be appreciative," Schewel said.
The mayor has condemned the arrests and asked residents to donate money to help those in custody. El Centro Hispano has set up a "Deportation Defense Fund" GoFundMe. It has raised more than $9,000 in four days.
Council member DeDreana Freeman said she "can't say enough that it’s the children who suffer the most in this."
"We have to do something; enough is enough," she said. "I recognize this is the system we have to operate in, but we have to do something."
Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson doesn't think Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews should be honoring detainers on jail inmates.
If ICE flags fingerprints and asks Andrews to detain the person, the sheriff said he honors it. Andrews also said he would rather have ICE come to the jail to take custody of a person than have their agents conducting raids in the community.
"One of the reasons that these types of raids are so scary is they are out of our control," City Council member Charlie Reece said. "And we have no idea if or when they will happen in the future."
What they can do, however, is speak out, he said.
"I want to make sure everyone knows that every member of this council wants Durham to be a welcoming place for all people. We want our neighbors to stay right here," Reece said.
It would be helpful to warn others when ICE agents are in the area, "so that people stay home," Caballero said. "They know not to drive in that part of town."
"And so I ask all of you to please be vigilant and help take care of our neighbors," Caballero said.