Wake sheriff defends immigration program allowing access to federal databases

Sheriff Donnie Harrison of Wake County (WNCN)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Raleigh Police say a man who was arrested on child sex charges wasn’t supposed to be in the country.

Police say 21-year-old Yancarlos Aaguilar-Orozco was having sex with a 14-year-old girl and tried to help her run away from home. Orozco is from Guatemala, and according to warrants, has been ordered to leave the country by the Department of Homeland Security.

This is exactly the type of case Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says proves the usefulness of the 287(g) program. The program is a partnership with U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Whether you’re documented or undocumented, 287(g) is a tool to me to keep communities safe,” said Harrison.

Harrison stands by Wake County’s use of 287(g), even after a community forum where multiple people called for the end of it. The program allows localities access to federal immigration databases, and gives authorities the power to enforce immigration laws.

“The only time a person is going to be checked for not being documented is when he goes to jail,” said Harrison.

“When it comes to being arrested, a lot of discretion is in play there. And the sheriff and the police department have a lot of discretion, a lot of power over who gets arrested and who doesn’t,” said Jorge Ramos, who is against 287(g).

Ramos, 19, is an undocumented immigrant. He and multiple organizations are calling on Harrison to get rid of 287(g). Ramos says his community lives in fear of drawing any attention to themselves from police, even reporting crimes.

“They have actually ended up being the ones to be arrested, detained and deported,” said Ramos.

His friend, 13-year-old Alejandro Matehuala, also wants the program gone.

“I get scared that I might come home one day and find out that my mom has been incarcerated or deported, or any of my parents or loved ones for that matter,” said Matehuala.

Still, supporters of 287(g) say the arrest of undocumented immigrants like Orozco, proves there is a need for local enforcement to keep communities safe.

“I’m all for community relationship. I’m all for people here that are hard-working people that want to work for a living. I want to protect everybody,” said Harrison.

Wake County has worked with ICE through this program since 2008. Anti-287(g) groups are asking Harrison to opt out of the initiative in June when it comes up for renewal.

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