Sheriff Duncan touts office’s efforts on immigration, drug seizures

Sheriff Duncan touts office’s efforts on immigration, drug seizures-attachment0

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is pursuing better coordination with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify fugitives, Sheriff Van Duncan said today. The office is also stepping up its drug-seizure efforts.

“We used to have a lot of problems identifying prisoners, because the FBI’s fingerprint systems and ICE’s system didn’t ‘talk’ to each other,” Duncan said at a lunch recently held by the Council of Independent Business Owners. “We had one couple that was wanted for sexual assault under an alias, but we couldn’t identify them, and they got out on bail.”

Local law enforcement doesn’t have the authority to arrest people for immigration violations, only ICE agents can do that, said Duncan, who sits on the eight-member N.C. Sheriffs’ Association’s ICE steering committee.

The sheriff’s office generally encounters undocumented and illegal immigrants through the jail: where they wind up after being arrested on other charges. To prevent fugitives wanted by ICE from slipping through the cracks, Duncan initially wanted to have Buncombe join the 287-G program, which would swear in a number of deputies as part-time ICE agents. However, that program would also require the jail to reserve 50 beds for ICE’s use. Five counties in North Carolina, including Henderson County, are part of the 287-G program.

“It’s expensive, [and] that was a considerable cost,” Duncan said. His office instead decided to go with the Secure Communities initiative, which connects the office to ICE’s systems and either turns fugitives over to ICE directly or puts a “hold” on them until ICE can determine their status.

“ICE are the experts,” he added. “There’s a lot of issues here. Some people entered the country legally — through a work visa — but are here illegally. Immigration law is above even the tax code in complexity. There’s a lot of questions about who does or doesn’t get deported. We’re happy to turn it over to them.”

He admitted the department’s handling of immigration issues has drawn criticism from multiple sides of the contentious issue.

“Quite frankly, we do get shot at from both sides,” Duncan asserted. “We’ve been criticized by the left side of the issue and [the] Latino advocacy group, because a lot of the people ICE holds in our jail are there for driving offenses: They were driving without documentation, or they failed to appear in court on driving charges and we issued a warrant for their arrest like we would anyone else. Well, if ICE is looking at them, there’s probably more there than just a driving issue, even if that’s what they’re arrested on.”

But he also said the department gets a lot of criticism from “the other side too, who want us checking everyone’s documents. We simply can’t do that. Legally, practically, we can’t do it.”

Out of the roughly 12,000 people the jail has processed this year, 180 have drawn the attention of ICE.

Duncan also spoke about the county’s drug-interdiction efforts, noting that a new two-man unit made up of former State Highway Patrol officers is monitoring Interstates 26 and 40 for drug trafficking.

“They look for tell-tale signs,” Duncan said, pointing to several recent high-profile drug seizures, including the largest cocaine bust in the county’s history.

When asked by an audience member what signs they look for, Duncan demurred.

“Their methods are legal, tried and true,” he replied. “The proof is in the pudding. There’s definitely a bit of a sixth-sense aspect to it.”

He said that drug seizures — $4 million so far this year — help fund salaries and equipment, including the high-powered rifles Duncan said are necessary to counter drug gangs’ increasing firepower.

“[The seizures] have saved the taxpayer a ton of money,” he asserted.

—David Forbes, staff writer

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3 thoughts on “Sheriff Duncan touts office’s efforts on immigration, drug seizures

  1. Mister Blister

    Oh man, check this out. North Carolina Department of revenue has an “Unauthorized Substances Tax”. So if you sell drugs or moonshine you are supposed to buy tax stamps. How crazy is that?

    http://www.dornc.com/taxes/usub/substance.html

    “The stamps must be permanently affixed to the unauthorized substance. Once the tax due on an unauthorized substance has been paid and the stamps affixed, no additional tax is due even though the unauthorized substance may be handled or possessed by other individuals in the future.”

    I think that NC is addicted to drug money. If you want to tax it, legalize it baby!

  2. Mister Blister

    Not sure if it applies in NC but I know in a lot of other states they will seize the alleged drug dealer’s assets and then never press charges. What this means is that they keep the assets without ever giving the accused their day in court (and a chance to get back their property).

    It’s “guilty until you prove your innocent”, and until you can prove your innocence they keep your stuff. This is theft and is unconstitutional.

    http://tinyurl.com/yccg56c

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