The citizens of Wake County have spoken; it’s time for a change.
Sheriff-elect Gerald Baker will be taking office as Wake County Sheriff on December 3rd. This comes as a surprise to many who believed that Sheriff Donnie Harrison would take a fifth term in office. During the campaign, Baker raised only $15,000 in comparison to Harrison’s roughly $200,000 campaign budget. These numbers further the notion that regardless of the Sheriff offices previously conservative trajectory, citizens of Wake County are looking to forge a new path.
Baker, who ran a campaign pledging to end the 287(g) program, has managed to bring about a wave of awareness in regards to immigration reform. While conservatives remain in dismay about Baker’s pledge, many believe that this is the beginning of a more progressive era for Wake County. By discontinuing Wake County’s partnership with ICE under 287(g), immigrants in Wake County will live in a more welcoming environment that promotes safety, reduces hit and runs, and will allow victims of crime to seek out help without fear of deportation.
The 287(g) program was written into the Immigration and Nationality Act by Congress in 1996. This program authorizes ICE to enter into agreements with local law enforcement agencies and deputize officers to act as immigration officers. An individual agreement is referred to as a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). North Carolina currently has five counties that assist in immigration enforcement under such an agreement. Cabarrus, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg and Wake county all have a Memorandum of Agreement with ICE to implement the 287(g) program.
The 287(g) program was originally intended to remove undocumented immigrants convicted of “violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling and money laundering.” Unfortunately, the effects of this program have been highly detrimental to North Carolina communities. Due to fear of law enforcement, immigrants will often refrain from reporting crimes, compromising public safety. Additionally, communities and businesses take on economic losses due to immigrants leaving communities that implement the 287(g) program. Worst of all, the marginalization of an already vulnerable population under the 287(g) program has permitted an atmosphere of tolerance towards racial profiling, harassment and stereotyping. Sheriff-elect Gerald Baker wishes to set a new tone in the capital, and the citizens of North Carolina’s second most populous county are urging him to take powerful action.