A Faith ID is better than no ID for people who have entered the country illegally and live in Orange County.
On Saturday, more than 100 people came to the Century Center in Carrboro for long-planned Faith ID drive. They did so despite a spate of immigration-related arrests in Orange and surrounding counties this week.
The ID is an unofficial identification for people who are unable to obtain a state-issued ID. The nonprofit El Centro Hispano issues the ID, which contains the person's photo and address.
Men, women and families — mostly Hispanic — listened Saturday as local officials, law enforcement and immigration attorneys talked about their roles in keeping communities safe — and explained that they're not part of the federal government's crackdown on illegal immigration.
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Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood told the crowd that Orange County law enforcement agencies have no have control over raids and arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. They said their main concern was supporting and protecting all people in the community from crime regardless of their immigration status.
"We are concerned that the events of the last few days have damaged what we have done to build trust in the community," Blue said. "No agency here has anything to do with immigration. We serve everyone in our community, and you are our community."
Blackwood echoed Blue's words.
"I know these are scary times," Blackwood said. "Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. We want to keep the support of your community."
At least 25 people were arrested this week, according to El Centro Hispano, the Durham-based Hispanic advocacy group that sponsored the ID drive.
Spokesman Eliazar Posada was ecstatic with the turnout. Originally, the event was just an ID drive. Organizers added a "Know Your Rights" session because of the recent ICE arrests.
"We had a chance to educate some people on their rights," Posada said. "We were not expecting this turnout. We were very glad so many folks came out to learn to interact with local law enforcement. With the events this week, we have had more people reaching out to us and asking what they can do."
The Faith IDs are not a driver’s license and cannot be used to vote, nor do the IDs entitle holders to welfare benefits.
But many North Carolina residents don’t have or can’t get a state-issued ID. Among them are 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 sheriff’s offices, the Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Durham, Carrboro and UNC-Chapel Hill police departments and local state troopers 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 proof of address and identification.
For people like Reyna Laja, a Faith ID is better than no ID. She knows the risks of driving but said she has to get her children to school and herself to her job as a housekeeper.
"I dislike driving as much as everyone else," Laja said. "I have to do it for my kids and my job."
People made small talk while filling out their Faith ID paperwork. They exchanged stories about people they knew who were arrested.
Posada said the event was held in conjunction with the Carrboro Police Department. He said organizers had received threats from anti-immigrant groups, but no protestors or trouble occurred.
"We thought it was unlikely but wanted to take every step to protect our community," Posada said. "We did everything we could to make everyone feel welcome and safe."
Attorney Beckie Moriello of the Raleigh Immigration Law Firm presented numerous scenarios that might prove confusing for immigrants when they interact with law enforcement. She also explained how ICE agents may use deceptive tactics in order to gain entry into a home or to stop people on the street to begin a conversation.
Local law enforcement officers said they do not use those methods. Those officers also showed off the uniforms of the local law enforcement agencies so people would know what to look for and be able to distinguish them from federal agents.
Anna Richards, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, voiced her support for the immigrants.
"Our interest is to provide civil rights for all people," Richards said. "The fact we are talking about people who are here from other countries really applies to all of us, right? We are engaged because we feel that an infringement on one segment of the community is really an infringement on the entire community."
Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils said he wanted to offer his assurances to those who attended.
"I am happy that people felt safe enough to be in downtown Carrboro today," Seils said. "It's important for them to know that Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Orange County supports the right of everyone to live safely and securely in this community."