Immigrant advocates demand Orange County sheriff to change policies related to working with ICE

Local News

ORANGE COUNTY, NC (WNCN) – On Friday, dozens of people gathered outside the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to demand the sheriff change his policies when it comes to working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration advocacy groups are accusing the sheriff of “double speak” on immigration enforcement, but the sheriff says his policies haven’t changed.

Maria Huerta says ever since ICE took her fiancé into custody, she’s been fighting to survive and provide for her children.

“This experience has been a true nightmare,” Maria Huerta said in Spanish at a rally outside the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. “He is our only support. I have had to go back to work even though doctors have recommended against it. My kids are suffering a lot too. One of them has barely spoken since he was taken.”

This started one month ago, when deputies say they responded to a domestic assault call involving Huerta and her fiancé Jocsan Cornejo. He’s accused of punching her and leaving the home before being pulled over and taken into custody.

“This happened after I had explained to the officer that he had not touched me, that he had not hit me and he was given a $25,000 bond and he spent almost three weeks in jail after much confusion,” said Huerta.

The pregnant woman and community immigrant advocates believe the sheriff went back against his word.

“We’re not accusing anybody of doing anything. What we’re saying is he has been telling us that he does not collaborate with ICE,” said Juan Miranda, organizer with Siembra NC. “Now we know that a man was taken into ICE custody while in the custody of the jail. Without a judicial warrant which leads us to believe he had a choice in allowing ICE to take this person.”

The sheriff says Cornejo’s fingerprints triggered an automatic inquiry into his immigration status. In a matter of days, they received two detainer requests, asking the sheriff to hold Cornejo for 48 hours after his authority to hold him ends.

The sheriff says Cornejo stayed in jail because no one had posted his bond.

Sheriff Blackwood sent us a statement reading in part, “We do not honor detainer requests. Keeping a person without legal authority is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights.”

The sheriff says he told DHS he would not hold Cornejo if he became eligible for release. He tells us ICE arrived 30 minutes before a bond hearing and took Cornejo into custody. The dozens who gathered in Orange County on Friday say the sheriff’s statement isn’t good enough.

“My kids are very sad,” said Huerta. “They call him dad even though he’s not their biological father. My 9 year old is very sad, he’s barely spoken since he left. He’s always asking me when he’s coming back and I had no answers for him.”

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