Immigrant activists ask sheriff Danny Rogers about ICE cooperation in closed door meeting

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Members of Siembra NC recap their meeting with sheriff Danny Rogers in a Facebook live video on Monday. (screenshot by Sayaka Matsuoka)

On Monday, several immigrant-rights groups met with Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers but some say they’re still unsatisfied with his stance on policies that cooperate with immigration and customs enforcement officials.

Laura Garduño Garcia with Siembra NC said that leaders from different community organizations were invited by Rogers last week to engage in conversation. Garcia says they were never told why.

“He didn’t say what it was,” Garcia said. “But we assumed it was because of immigration.”

The group has been trying to schedule a meeting with Rogers for weeks, since he took office after being elected in 2018. Garcia said this long-awaited meeting, however, was a disappointment.

“Sheriff Danny Rogers took about 30 minutes of the time to say all the things that were on his mind about how he wasn’t able to meet with folks, or had made efforts to meet with folks,” Garcia said. “Or how this has been politically motivated.”

Garcia also said that Rogers didn’t give the groups, which included members of the League of Women Voters and the Latino Community Coalition, time to introduce themselves and when it came time for them to talk, he only allowed them to ask two questions each.

Addy Jeffrey, who attended the meeting on behalf of both organizations, said she couldn’t comment for the piece because the meeting had been a closed session.

“We want to honor that,” she said. “We do feel like it’s important to continue conversations with the sheriff’s department.”

Garcia said that the main questions Siembra had for Rogers pertained to his recent support of the NC Sheriff’s Association’s amendments to HB 370 (which can be viewed below). The bill would require local sheriffs’ offices around the state to cooperate more extensively with immigrations and customs enforcement officials.

HB-370-and-SB-637-Legislative-Proposal-Submitted-to-NCGA

In April, the office said that they did not support “HB 370 or any measures being used to circumvent the local authority of the sheriffs in requiring cooperation with ICE.” However, a recently proposed amendment to the original bill by the NC Sheriff’s Association changed Rogers’ mind.

According to Max Benbassat, the sheriff’s office’s public information officer, Rogers supports the decision of the sheriffs association.

While the bill no longer includes penalties for sheriffs who don’t cooperate with ICE, it still requires employees at county jails to take ICE detainers to state judicial officials who can then issue magistrate’s orders to hold people in custody until they are picked up by ICE if they are in the country illegally.

In a press release posted on Tuesday, the sheriff’s office recapped the meeting with immigrant-rights activists saying that he has “met with several groups regarding immigration both formally and informally.”

The press release goes on to say that the “Guilford County Sheriff’s Office opposes HB 370 as presently drafted by the General Assembly.” Benbassat also said that Rogers is working with the office’s attorney to “improve the bill.”

On Tuesday, he emphasized Rogers’ openness with working with the immigrant community.

He noted the recent collaboration with Faith Action International and the upcoming implementation of the group’s identification cards which can be used in lieu of driver’s licenses and other forms of identification to visit the local jail as well as for reentry into society.

“It’s in the best interest of police and the immigrant community,” Benbassat said.

He also said that Rogers wants to continue cultivating relationships with immigrant groups to build trust.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to call 911 for help,” Benbassat said. “But he’s not going to be intimidated by different groups on how he enforces the law.”

But Garcia says that she’s still not satisfied with Rogers’ response to their organization.

“It’s clear that the sheriff isn’t interested in having a dialogue with members in our community to listen, to understand, to ask questions,” she said. “To take meaningful steps to be welcoming to every person in our community. It just doesn’t seem to be true with his actions.”