Department Faced Federal Lawsuit Over Civil Rights Abuses Against Latino Residents in 2012

November 9, 2017

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina is urging the Department of Homeland Security to reject an application from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) to reenter a program that funds local law enforcement agencies to engage in federal immigration enforcement activities, citing the Sheriff’s office’s documented history of racial profiling and rampant civil rights abuses.

The federal government terminated a previous 287(g) agreement with ACSO in 2012, when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. The lawsuit charged that under Johnson’s direction, ACSO systematically and unlawfully targeted Latino residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, seizures, and other enforcement actions. The lawsuit resulted from a two-year investigation and interviews with more than 100 witnesses.

On November 11, the Trump administration will consider applications from ACSO and 25 other local law enforcement agencies, including Nash County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina, to join the 287(g) program. In a letter this week, the ACLU of North Carolina urged DHS to reject the application from Alamance, citing the department’s “egregious record,” and arguing that DHS “should never partner with jurisdictions that have records of abuse, constitutional violations, and anti-immigrant animus.”

“Alamance County lost its 287(g) status for a reason. From ordering his deputies to ‘bring me some Mexicans’ to overseeing egregious patterns of racial profiling, Sheriff Johnson has a well-documented history of targeting the Latino community in Alamance County,” said ACLU of North Carolina Staff Attorney Irena Como. “No agency with such a terrible record of civil rights abuses should receive federal funds to further target residents for arrests, detention, and possibly deportation.”

A 2012 statistical analysis commissioned by DOJ found that along three major Alamance County highways, ACSO deputies were approximately 4, 9, and 10 times more likely, respectively, to stop Latino drivers than similarly situated non-Latino drivers. The lawsuit listed examples of Latino drivers being followed by Alamance deputies for long stretches of time and then pulled over for little or no reason. Witnesses also testified about numerous incidents in which Johnson and other ACSO employees expressed prejudice against Latino residents.

While a federal judge ultimately dismissed the case against Sheriff Johnson, the court still admonished ACSO for some of its behavior, including the frequent use of anti-immigrant epithets and slurs during official department business.

In an executive order in January, President Trump pledged to drastically increase local law enforcement’s role in enforcing federal immigration law.

Stay Informed