Live Blogging OCDW Candidates Forum

The Orange County Democratic Women is sponsoring a forum for County Commissioners and Sheriff candidates. The event is tonight, March 25, at 7:30 p.m. It will be held at the OWASA community room at 400 Jones Ferry Road. If you can't make the forum, tune in to OP's live blog for real time coverage.



I dropped by before it started and was really impressed with the turnout at this forum. (It might have helped that it's not on TV so folks can't watch from home as they might with last night's Sierra Club forum.)I wanted to highlight an interesting exchange from Lindsay's excellent live blog above:

Q: Is it appropriate for law enforcement to ask immigration status?  A:
Birkhead opposes it. he says it is the position that OC has taken and
he agrees with it. He says it's inappropriate to ask anyone of any
background their immigration status. Nowhere in our policy in
Hillsborough does it say to check immigration status.

Pendergrass says that anyone that has been arrested has to be
fingerprinted. The OC Sheriff's office writes citations when someone
drives without licenses/revoked licence. We write down their driver
license's number. We don't ask for citizenship. We aren't out hitting
construction sites during the day.

Fantastic job including tons of detail! Very well done.

Great job Lindsay!

Thanks for finding this bit. While Birkhead is more forthcoming in his answer, it's still a little vague because, as we all know, there are different ways to ask: verbal, fingerprints, computer data bases. Unless someone is arrested, it's a bit discretionary. So I'm interested in explicit policy and the position of the guy at the top because he sets the tone for the department. 

May I suggest you asked the County Commissioners because if I recall this was disscussed and ruled on by them. The decision was not solely left up to the Sheriff.

Here's a link to the minutes from the Jan mtg when county commissioners recieved a report on the secure communities program, a country-wide program of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (pages 3 & 4).The program mandates that everyone who is arrested gets their fingerprints checked against immigration databases as well as criminal databases. Those flagged by ICE can be detained and turned over to Immigration officials.  Decisions about what constitutes an arrestable offense are not up to either the Sheriff or the BoCC to decide, and it's not clear if OC can opt out of the program. The Sheriff says the policy of his dept is to issue citations for minor traffic offenses (like driving without a license) instead of making an arrest, which would trigger the ICE review. It's not made explicitly clear, but it sounds like OCSO does not ask about immigration status during non-arrest situations.

I was wondering about discretionary issues, not criminal offenses. I had heard that sheriffs in other North Carolina counties (I'm thinking of some farther to the east) pursue immigration inquiries with differing levels of zeal. Glad OCBOC has discussed this.

from speaking with people who advocate for the Latino community in this
area is that OC is not the worst county in the state,  but there is what
we would call harrassment and a level of enforcement which is above
what is done within CH and Carrboro. Things like license checkpoints at the entrance to majority-hispanic neighborhoods. I'm sorry, but I don't trust any politician these days who doesn't make it explicitly clear.  Because you also have to get from their rhetoric to what is happening at the individual officer level, so the lack of a clear public statement from the top is troubling to me.

Also, given that there have been issues in the past with the actual law enforcement officers (CHDP) occasionally not following the policies set at the leadership level (C.H. Town Council)*, it does seem important to make sure the sheriff understands and supports the decision already made by the Board of County Commissioners.* See background at


Very cool, Lindsay. Great to see there was a big turnout for this forum. You did a great job. So much info! It's great!

I'd definitely like to hear the position of each of the County Commissioners regarding their instructions to the sheriff's department regarding request of immigration status if no arrest is being made.


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