Henderson County sheriff says ICE contract costs taxpayers

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Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin said taxpayers have to pay for the ICE program that trains deputies how to interview suspects arrested on other charges if detectives suspect they are undocumented individuals. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 200 undocumented immigrants in North Carolina. An ICE regional director stated it’s the new normal.

Sean Gallagher, an ICE regional office director based in Atlanta, spoke of Friday’s North Carolina arrests at a lengthy news conference, placing blame on newly elected sheriffs over counties in the state’s largest cities -- Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham -- who have canceled 287(g) ICE assistance contracts, and aren’t assisting with illegal immigrant arrests or detainment for ICE.

Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin said Henderson's contract is up in May. He said he doesn’t have the staff to handle contract requirements that stipulate that a trained deputy should be on duty 24/7 to question a suspected undocumented immigrant.

Griffin said he thought the program, which would be paid for by taxpayers, is a burden on them. He appears to be considering not renewing Henderson's own 287(g) contract.

Taxpayers, he said, have to pay for the program, which trains deputies how to interview suspects arrested on other charges, if detectives suspect they are undocumented.

Griffin further said federal monies dried up for the program several years ago.

“The public would be shocked at the kinds of individuals these sheriffs are releasing back into the country,” said ICE's Gallagher, who gave examples of alleged undocumented immigrants released from jails. “An alien charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon. Assault with intent to kill. This was a known gang member of the community who shot someone with an AK-47. The sheriff released him back into the community, and my officers went and arrested him.”

“We have nothing to do with that,” Sheriff Griffin said.

Griffin wanted to point out, however, that he is still going to abide by a grace period of holding ICE detainees for the federal agency for 48 hours.

“We are not going to be opening the doors to the jail,” the sheriff said.