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Durham County Sheriff Issues Order to Not Honor 48-Hour ICE Detainers

The newly appointed sheriff of a populous North Carolina community announced last week that he will not honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead, on Dec. 6, issued a directive to the Durham County Detention Center staff to release any detained immigrants as soon as they are eligible, disregarding the standard 48 hours that an inmate is held over in jail so that they can be taken into ICE custody.

“The detainers allow ICE to take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody,” the sheriff’s office said in a release. “The Sheriff’s directive advises staff that absent of a court order or arrest warrant signed by a judicial official any person who has had their criminal charges disposed of or who has made bond will not be held beyond the normal timetable for release. This policy, signed by Sheriff Birkhead on Thursday, December 6 went into effect immediately.” 

Birkhead won a landslide victory in May against incumbent Sheriff Mike Andrews by running on a platform that made a “clear and uncompromising commitment to not cooperate with ICE.”

“We will not honor ICE detainers,” Birkhead wrote. “We will not participate in ICE roundups. We will not do checkpoints for immigration purposes.”

After issuing the order, Birkhead conducted a meeting with Latino members of the community.

Durham County is the sixth-most-populous county in North Carolina, and joins a number of other jurisdictions around the country this year that have chosen not to honor ICE detainers, including Fairfax County in northern Virginia and Milwaukee County, Wis.  

The American Civil Liberties Union says that ICE detainers pose legal and financial liabilities against localities.  

Meanwhile, ICE maintains that failure to honor its detainers and release “serious criminal offenders… undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.” 

James Cullum
Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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