Burlington, NC -- A new voice joined the finger-pointing and name-calling Friday in the discrimination accusations surrounding the Alamance County Sheriff's Office.
The federal Department of Justice released a report last week that detailed allegations of racism and systematic profiling of Latinos by Sheriff Terry Johnson. Johnson and his attorney shot back Wednesday and called the accusations "gossip" and "innuendo."
On Friday, a grassroots group called Fairness Alamance had its say. The group was created in 2008 specifically to fight Sheriff Johnson's stance on illegal immigration.
During a news conference that lasted about an hour, some group members took shots at the tone of the formal response that Johnson's attorney sent to the DOJ this week. One member called it "arrogant and insulting."
A pastor who works with undocumented youth at a Burlington church says she's heard hundreds of cases of local Latinos feeling bullied by people who wear a badge. Many are too afraid to even go to PTA meetings, she said, because they're worried about being pulled over and then deported.
And a Hispanic woman told her story of feeling intimidated by law enforcement -- even though it was a local police department and not the sheriff's office that pulled her over and put her in jail. But a lawyer who spoke at the news conference says that's not what's important.
"The problem is, it doesn't really matter whether it's Burlington police or [the NC Wildlife Commission] or whatever other law enforcement agency," Orange Co. attorney Marty Rosenbluth said. "Because once [illegal immigrants] get into the county jail, it's the sheriff's deputies that are deputized under the 287(g) program that decide whether or not someone goes in to deportation proceedings."
Sheriff's office spokesman Randy Jones says that is untrue. He says deputies do the paperwork that drafts up immigration court documents when a federal database confirms someone is in the country illegally, but it's up to federal ICE agents to decide if someone is deported.
At this point, it seems the only thing everyone involved in all this can agree on is that it won't be a surprise if the sheriff's department and the DOJ are headed for a legal showdown over the sheriff's policies.
WFMY News 2