More than 3,100 people from seven counties were placed in deportation proceedings this year as a result of a program that allows sheriffs to enforce federal immigration laws.
The people flagged for deportation proceedings were identified when they were taken to jail on charges ranging from traffic violations to murder.
“It certainly documents that there are persons illegally in this state who are committing crimes,” said Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president and general counsel for the N.C. Sheriffs' Association, which has received some $1.3 million in state money in the past two years to help sheriffs combat illegal immigration.
More than 1,200 of those now facing deportation were stopped for traffic violations other than impaired driving. Civil rights advocates say that 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.
“A full third of the people who are being deported have been charged with minor motor vehicle violations,” said Rebecca Headen, a staff attorney with the ACLU of North Carolina. The counties participating in the program are Alamance, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg and Wake. The Durham Police Department is also participating, but was not included in the survey.