Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson is one of about a dozen law enforcement agencies across the United States to participate. Sheriffs in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties also take part and check immigration status of foreigners they arrest.
Johnson said the program brings in extra money for the county, about $66 a night for each illegal alien his department detains. It also rids the county of illegal immigrants, whom he said drain the system of public resources.
“Their values are a lot differenttheir moralsthan what we have here,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who has campaigned against illegal immigrants, has a new $12 million jail that is larger than needed for county crime. He said he hopes the 240-bed facility will become a regional hub for detainees when it opens this month.
The sheriff said more Hispanic criminals are attracted to the region as the Hispanic population increases. He sees his duty to go after anyone breaking a law, including immigration statutes.
Nolo Martinez, the former state director of Hispanic affairs, predicted the program will fill jails with people who have committed misdemeanors and gotten traffic citations. He said it will create more problems.
Jim Pendergraph, sheriff of Mecklenburg County, said his officers have arrested about 1,300 illegal residents since last May who have deportation orders or are criminals. Once they are in custody, federal officials make the final decisions.
“We’re protecting people from illegal immigrants driving drunk and killing our families and selling drugs to our children,” Pendergraph said.