When Officer Charlie Pardo approaches Hispanic residents of either Carrboro or Chapel Hill, he never asks to see their immigration papers.
“I give them whatever advice I can give them. One of the first questions they ask is about being undocumented and I say we don’t even look at your documentation status, we are here to serve everyone equally,” said Pardo.
Pardo works for the Chapel Hill Police Department and in conjunction with the Carrboro Police Department as the Hispanic Liaison for the two neighboring towns. He is seen as a trustworthy policeman in the eyes of many Hispanics in the area.
Carrboro and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, have a liberal stance in dealing with Hispanic immigrants compared to some surrounding jurisdictions.
“Carrboro was one of the first agencies to come out and take some stance on direction as far as how to deal with this (immigration). We were not the very first, but one of the first in the nation. And I know Chapel Hill was early on as well,” said Captain J.G. Booker of the Carrboro Police Department.
On May 16, 2007, the mayor and Board of Aldermen passed a policy that stated, “The Carrboro Police Department will not seek to arrest persons when the sole basis for arresting such persons is that such persons have or may have committed a civil immigration violation.”
“Our policy is that our officers will not ask anybody about their immigration status, and the only time their documentation status comes into play is if they commit a serious crime,” said Pardo.
This stance has allowed for some Hispanics to be permitted to return to their homes after being caught with minor traffic violations, instead of being taken to jail.
Recently a man from Guatemala was pulled over. He was found without identification and the vehicle was not his. After uncovering the reasoning behind the situation, we were able to let him go, and he was very thankful, said Pardo.
This attitude varies slightly with surrounding counties. Wake and Alamance counties both have the 287G program in place, which gives local officers federal training in order to assist in the recognition of illegal immigrants in their areas.
The backbone of the program consists of a computer system that is available to the local branches and includes information from government enforcement across the nation.
It includes fingerprints from sources such as the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and when an individual is booked for a crime they have the resources to know his immigration status without delay.
“If someone has committed a crime they are brought to my jail and are immediately checked through the system. I need to know who is in my jail, and if they are illegal then they are turned over to ICE,” said Sheriff Donnie Harrison of Wake County.
According to the ICE Web site, their mission is “to protect the security of the American people and homeland by vigilantly enforcing the nation’s immigration and customs laws.”
The 287G program, “allows a state and local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), in order to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions,” as stated on the ICE Web site.
In 2008, 3,100 immigrants were placed in deportation proceedings from seven counties in North Carolina under the 287G program. But more than 1,200 of those people where stopped for traffic violations other than impaired driving, according to an article in the News & Observer.
However, the article stated that some civil rights activists were against “arresting someone for speeding because of their questionable immigration status takes limited resources from law enforcement that could be used to fight serious crime. The practice also leaves people of color open to racial profiling.”
The policy put into place in Carrboro and Chapel Hill is in direct opposition of such behavior. Some local jurisdictions felt that local officers don’t really have the authority to enforce federal law, says Booker.
“What we do is enforce laws either by state law or city ordinance so our direction was that we will let the feds deal with that and we will deal with what we deal with locally,” said Booker.
But all three counties agree that if a crime is committed against an illegal immigrant, then the best course of action would be to notify the police in their area.
“We are here to help and would not be interested in looking into the immigration status of an individual if they were to report a crime,” said Harrison.
(My first news article on Hispanics-it may or may not be picked up by local news chains)