Legal Aid Justice Center will be hosting a rally Saturday at 2 p.m. at Yowell Meadow Park to express their concern with the 287(g) immigration program that the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office will implement on April 24.
Sophia Gregg, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program, Legal Aid Justice Center, said that the Hispanic population of Culpeper is concerned about the program.
“We want to give a voice to the affected community in Culpeper,” Gregg said. “To really have a platform to explain to the rest of the community about the issues regarding the implementation.”
She said the rally is also a platform for other organizations, such as the ACLU, to come out and support the Culpeper community.
According to Gregg, there is a lot of fear in the community when it comes to the program.
“A lot of people I’ve spoken to were people who used to live in Prince William County and they’ve moved from there due to the climate of intolerance and not feeling welcome,” Gregg said. “They moved to Culpeper and they built roots in Culpeper and found it to be a very welcoming community.”
Jenkins has said that he believes the fear is being propelled by organizations with an agenda who have ulterior motives.
“My agenda is simple: I’m the sheriff. I’m the only person in this county and this state who can implement this program in Culpeper,” Jenkins said at a Culpeper County Board of Supervisors meeting in December. “That means I am the one who will rest with the conscience of the decision if we don’t do everything we can house and help deport people who could possibly kill or injure our citizens.”
Jenkins stressed that this is a not a street level program where patrol deputies could detain and then turn over an illegal alien to ICE. The program will train four deputies initially, with two more added later, to use ICE software as inmates are taken into the jail. They are already asked a standard set of questions, Jenkins said, and this program will ask more pertaining to whether they are in the country legally or not.
“No deputy sheriff has or will have the authority to arrest any citizen or any person on the street who we feel may be an illegal alien,” Jenkins said. “This is only inside the walls of the jail.”
Jenkins said he is not hiring or asking for future positions and said the four-week training would be fully funded by the federal government through the program.
Gregg countered arguments that the program is “just a computer” by saying that it deputizes Culpeper County deputies to “carry out civil immigration enforcement.”
“Having that ability to put people in deportation proceedings,” Gregg said. “When someone is brought into jail they may be screened and subject to deportation. The sheriff will no longer have control over the deputies in their day to day activities as an acting ice authority.”
While the program is a jail program, she said Hispanic residents are fearful of being pulled over for anything – including not having a driver’s license. She said that many Hispanic residents who are even here legally cannot obtain a driver’s license because of the stringent laws of the Commonwealth.
“It incentivizes the sheriff’s deputies on the street to give someone a ticket or arrest someone based on something as minor as a traffic infraction,” Gregg said. “Those people will more than likely be coming into the jail to be processed by this 287(g) program. It definitely puts fear into peoples minds.”
Gregg said she has heard concerns from those who want to attend the rally, but are afraid it will make them a target for retaliation.
“I have had a lot of questions about that, what the security issue will be,” Gregg said. “If they speak, if they will be targeted for retaliation. On a national level, we’re seeing people who speak on immigration issues who are under documented are being targeted by this administration.”
The sheriff has scheduled a ceremony for April 24, saying the signing of the agreement is in memory of Zulma Alvarez, a young Hispanic lady killed by an illegal immigrant in a drunk driving accident.
Gregg said Alvarez’ family will speak at a press conference on April 19 to address the situation.
“The Sheriff is using the name of Zulma Alvarez, and her father and her family are very unhappy about the sheriff using her name and he will be speaking on April 19,” Gregg said.