ICE Fends Off Questions, Criticism in Henderson County

Dec 10, 2019

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials spent Tuesday in Henderson County giving an annual update on their cooperation agreement with the sheriff’s department. The hour-long presentation at the County Courthouse didn’t provide many answers. 

About 40 residents and immigration activists filled the benches of the courtroom gallery -- while on the other side of the bar, ICE’s field program manager Steve LaRocca paced the chambers. 

Credit Cass Herrington / BPR News

“Our authority resides solely within the confines of the detention center," LaRocca said. "So any individual that’s a designated immigration officer, their legal authority is only within the confines of the Henderson County Detention Center.” 

LaRocca oversees Henderson County’s 287(g) agreement with ICE. The voluntary program allows local law enforcement to enforce certain aspects of federal immigration law. The Henderson County sheriff’s office currently has two immigration officers, and the county is one of four in North Carolina that participate in the program. 

The use of local tax dollars on the program was the biggest source of friction during the conversation. Attendees gathered expressing frustration and questions about the efficacy of the program -- and whether it’s even constitutional. Questions that LaRocca did not answer.

When asked whether 287(g) had resulted in a reduction of violent crime, LaRocca says ICE doesn’t document and classify the types of crimes committed.

But the county’s participation in 287(g) has resulted in at least one instance of a non-violent crime resulting in a deportation. This past year, a family was detained following a traffic stop on charges of resisting arrest and later deported. Henderson County non-profit True Ridge says they were on track to receiving protected status as asylum seekers.