Buncombe sheriff to step up identity checks

In an effort to identify and deport illegal immigrants who commit a crime, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will soon have the ability to use federal databases to check the status of everyone processed through the county jail.

Buncombe is one of four North Carolina counties testing computer software that will allow deputies at the Detention Center to run fingerprints through the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement databases. If the pilot project, which also involves neighboring Henderson, Wake and Gaston counties, is successful, it could be replicated in all of the state’s 100 sheriff’s departments.

For Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan, the project’s goal is clear: “Quite frankly, it’s safer communities. We’ll be able to identify folks who have slid under the radar before.” The federal check will help local law enforcement avoid situations where criminals wanted elsewhere are released, Duncan said.

If a suspect is identified as an illegal immigrant, ICE agents will be notified, and it will be up to them to decide whether the suspect should be held and processed for deportation, according to Duncan. He expects the computer system to be up and running by mid-September or early October.

Last year, about 16,800 suspects were processed through the Buncombe County jail, Duncan says. About 10 percent of the jail population is foreign-born.

Not everyone thinks the pilot project is a good idea. “I think it’s a bad policy,” says Francisco Risso, a spokesman for Workers United of Western North Carolina, a Morganton-based group based with offices in Asheville. The group works to improve the wages and benefits of low-wage workers by partnering with other community organizations.

“It’s an unhumanitarian policy targeting workers and something that’s really a symptom of a broken system,” Risso says. “We want to see something more constructive. It’s not fair to just single out and punish the workers.”

The pilot project will come online in Buncombe County just weeks after federal immigration agents raided the Mills Manufacturing plant in Woodfin on Aug. 12, an action that agents said was the largest ever in Western North Carolina and resulted in the arrest of 57 people. The raid was hailed by many as overdue, but it also moved dozens of people to march through the streets of Asheville and hold a prayer vigil at a local church, all to show their support for those arrested.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is the only one in the pilot project that’s not enrolled in the federal government’s 297(g) program, which offers specific training to deputies that allows them to begin deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants brought into county jails. Alamance, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg and Wake counties are all participating in that program, and other N.C. counties have expressed interest in joining. But federal resources are limited, and ICE officials have said there are no plans to enroll more counties at present.

Henderson County started participating in the 287(g) program on July 6 and began testing the computer-software connections with federal databases about two weeks ago. “There are still a few bugs in it,” Chief Deputy Greg Cochran told Xpress, “but hopefully by the time Buncombe is turned on, they’ll have those bugs worked out.”

Since Henderson joined the 287(g) program, deputies have identified 88 illegal immigrants, Cochran says, and 77 of them have been issued notices to appear at a hearing in Charlotte to determine whether or not they should be deported.


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14 thoughts on “Buncombe sheriff to step up identity checks

  1. Buzzm1

    08/15/2008 – Currently, 62 local enforcement agencies spanning the nation have signed MOAs with ICE and now more than 840 officers have been trained to enforce immigration law.

    DHS By The Numbers

    338 miles of border fence built

    16,873 border patrol agents

    80,000 employers enrolled in e-Verify

    5.37 million employees checked using e-Verify

    1,081 new worksite enforcement investigations

    Nearly 4,000 worksite enforcement administrative arrests

  2. LOKEL

    “In an effort to identify and deport illegal immigrants who commit a crime, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will soon have the ability to use federal databases to check the status of everyone processed through the county jail.”

    Haven’t these illegal immigrants already committed a crime by crossing into this Country with fraudulent documents, or no documents at all?

    I just don’t get the double speak coming from the Sheriff on this issue ….

    So now, instead of deportation for illegal entry (which is a Federal felony – as is forged documents such as SS cards etc.) we are going to give these people a second chance to commit more crimes in this Country and then hope we catch them at that point to send ’em back!


    So let’s let them in and wait until they kidnap a 13 year old boy and molest him – then, hopefully we’ll find the guy who did it; arrest him, have a trail and use taxpayer monies to incarcerate him until such time that we send him back to his native country?

    Does anyone get it?

  3. The Masked Superstar

    So are you saying that all illegal aliens are child molesters? Or are you equating moving across a fictional line in the ground to make more money with being a child molester?

  4. LOKEL

    Yes that’s it exactly.

    Kind of like saying all posters are assholes.


  5. LOKEL

    There have been several cases in Buncombe County this year: a “gentleman” in a trailer park in Northern Buncombe was arrested for fondling himself in front of several elementary school children on more than one occasion just last month.

    In the last week a person of Latino descent picked-up a 13 year boy in South Asheville and proceeded to fondle him repeatedly in his mini-van. To date there have been no arrests in the case.

    Earlier in the Summer, in Candle, a Mexican National was arrested for physically restraining the teenage daughter of a neighbor in broad daylight: and the family, until that point, considered him a “friend.”

    I could go on, but space prohibits and I have not kept track of every single incident: as the Police have not yet caught every offender either.

    My point is there an increase in sexually motivated crimes in our area committed by individuals of Latino descent. It is evidenced by the increased numbers of reported incidents that have been on/in the local news.

    I stand by my original comment.

    Anyone, of any race or nationality, who enters the US without properly following the laws of this Country, and uses fradulent documents to obtain employment has already committed a felony under our current immigration laws.

    So it seems ridiculous to announce that the Sheriff will only use the database in cases where a crime has been committed because the fact that these individuals are here is A CRIME.

  6. LOKEL

    You asked how many molest children?

    Here are some statistics (found on the net).

    There are approximately 240,000 illegal immigrant sex offenders in the United States. This staggering statistic, rarely mentioned by the media, was revealed in a study by Deborah Schurman-Kauflin of the Violent Crimes Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. “It is clear,” she says, “that the U.S. public faces a dangerous threat from sex predators who cross the U.S. borders illegally.” What’s more, she adds, “Then they gradually commit worse crimes and are continually released back into society or deported. Those who were deported simply returned illegally again.”

    I know that all of these victims are probably not children …. but I was referring specifically to our locality.

  7. The Masked Superstar

    Can you site those figures? For all I know you are making them up.

    Can you also show me what percentage of the total population of immigrants are child molesters? How about of citizens? I bet it’s roughly the same.

  8. evolved

    The gov’t. local and federal are going about this all wrong. If they created a pathway to legal immigration for the 12 MILLION people who crossed the border seeking economic asylum, they could easily weed out the few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Instead, they are choosing to criminalize economic refugees and spend more money sending them back when it is so damn easy to return. The new asylum seekers would be taxpayers (and usually already are)who would only stimulate our economy.

  9. Al Cottingham

    Good for you Mr Sheriff. Illegal aliens need to be sent back home, especially if they commit crimes here.

  10. Buck

    This matter has nothing to do with workers rights, it has to do with predictors. People who commit crimes and are caught, only to be let go to do it again and again.
    If you are legally in the country you are a guest, if you break the rules you would be required to do your time and leave.

    On the other hand, what can we do about someone who has entered our country in the trunk of a car showing no regard for our laws? There is no way of tracking these people down. A rapist? A drug dealer? A thug?

    These are people who have no respect for us. Remember the “Hobo Murderer” of a few years ago? We have enough home grown gangsters.

  11. Gary

    There is the larger economy program with illegals. Many local Asheville companies suffer because of competing against people who are illegal, dont carry insurance, multiple families living together, etc. Because of this they are able to undercut the standard American pricing and hurt our properity by paying their people way below minimum wage. Even construction companies in Asheville will hire illegals to save $$, never considering the “business crime factor” and the liability you incur. I have absolutely nothing against an immigrant family (are we all one?) starting here and building their lives. This is beautiful. But I do have a problem when we allow them abuse our system, break the rules, and hurt our businesses. Good for Duncan! There is a correct balance we can find… if we really want it.

  12. Al Cottingham

    I wonder if Masked Superstar’s own “fictional line” at his residence were crossed without his permission, would he feel the same way? maybe Virato Live out to do a whole hour on it on the radio.

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