ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- The Alamance County Sheriff's Office is reapplying to a program that allows local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration policies.
The Sheriff's office was kicked out of the 287(g) program back in 2012 when the Department of Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Terry Johnson.
The case was ultimately dismissed, but civil rights advocates say the sheriff's office shouldn't be allowed back in the program.
Currently, 60 law enforcement agencies in 18 states, including North Carolina, have 287(g) agreements.
Under the program, law enforcement agencies are trained by ICE to carry out Federal immigration enforcement.
This means the jail would be able to search ICE databases to determine if prisoners are in the country illegally and detain them. The Sheriff's Office would then be allowed to start the process for an immigration hearing that could lead to deportation.
"This program will help get out of our society, the violent criminals that choose to prey upon our citizens of this county," Sheriff Terry Johnson said.
The ACLU of North Carolina argues that the program keeps undocumented immigrants from turning to police for help because they are afraid of deportation.
"These agreements hurt all of us by intimidating immigrants from seeking help when they are the victims of crimes and eroding the trust between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to serve," said Irena Como, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina.
Next week, the Trump administration is expected consider applications from agencies across the country who want to be a part of the program, according to the ACLU.
The Alamance County Sheriff's office was removed from the program in 2012 when the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff. The lawsuit accused the Sheriff's office of of systematically and unlawfully targeting Hispanic people for traffic stops, arrests and other enforcement.
Federal judges wrote in their decision that, "The Government has failed to demonstrate that ACSO has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional law enforcement against Hispanics."
The ACLU of North Carolina wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland security asking officials to reject the Sheriff's application for 287(g).
"They lost their application status for a reason. It's because of a long pattern and a well-documented history of targetting the Latino community in Alamance County," said Irena Como, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina.
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