El Centro Hispano NC learned three months ago of conversations between the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and two grassroots groups, Apoyo and Siembra, around setting policy to ensure inmates in Orange County are not released into ICE custody without certain documentation. El Centro Hispano was asked to weigh in on the steps the Sheriff’s Office has taken thus far.  Despite our conversations with both parties, tensions have escalated and communication has been impaired.

El Centro Hispano has sustained a close working relationship with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for several years and together have addressed many key issues impacting the immigrant and Latinx Community.  Equally important to note is that El Centro Hispano respects and admires the work of community leaders who are working to ensure security for our communities. We understand the need for community members to make their voice heard and have worked to give community members the tools to advocate.  The immigrant community has been and always will be at the center of El Centro Hispano’s advocacy and policy work at the local, state and federal government level.

At this time, it would be imprudent for El Centro Hispano to establish position, either of affirmation or condemnation, to the policy being proposed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office due to the fact that it has not been fully vetted by our immigration attorney and have just recently heard back from our advisors on legal matters.  As of now, the responses we have received from attorneys we work with, the proposed policy changes seem to be meet the goal of the conversation if there is adequate training for all the deputies and detention center staff. Nonetheless El Centro Hispano is not prepared to make a full recommendation at this time. We urge the Sheriff to publish their proposed changes and the changes he has made to the policy since this conversation started.  El Centro Hispano believes it is imperative that elected officials, at all levels, understand and work towards breaking down barriers impacting the immigrant community and creating policies to ensure their security. There is no doubt that all parties in this conversation are working to protect the immigrant community in Orange County, and in order to do so, communication must be consistent and respectful. As reported here by Univision, ICE officials and other state elected officials are seeking to crack down on counties where sheriffs do not cooperate with ICE, as well as push dangerous anti-immigrant legislation like HB 370.

In light of the threats by ICE and the push by legislators to continue to enact legislation against the immigrant community, El Centro Hispano urges both parties to open lines of communication and de-escalate the situation.  Furthermore, El Centro Hispano invites the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and representatives of both Apoyo and Siembra to convene in our office to finalize a path to ensuring our community is protected.

El Centro Hispano looks forward to hosting and working with Sheriff Blackwood, Apoyo and Siembra on these important issues.  “We must work together to protect our families, strengthen partnerships and find new allies in the fight to protect the community” – Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, President and CEO of El Centro Hispano.