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North Carolina sheriff allegedly exhibited anti-immigrant bias

The enforcement and adequacy of our nation's immigration laws have been at the forefront of political debate in recent years. The issue has produced a divided spectrum of opinions, from those who advocate for greater leniency to those who push for stricter policies. Wherever one's sympathies lie, however, it is axiomatic that the laws be administered fairly and evenly.

But according to a federal report released by the U.S. Department of Justice, one North Carolina sheriff and his department have been discriminating against Latino residents in Alamance County. The report found that Hispanics were 10 times more likely to be pulled over by a deputy than non-Hispanics.

One example that likely contributed to that statistic was the department's roadblock practice. According to the report, the sheriff would place police roadblocks in Latino neighborhoods that allowed non-Latinos to pass through but subjected Latinos to a traffic stop. The sheriff was also accused in the report of telling those within the department to arrest Hispanics instead of issuing them a ticket.

The sheriff has made clear that he supports the 287(g) program that gives local police officers the ability to look into the immigration status of anyone taken into custody. But that program generated concerns that it could be administered in a discriminatory manner, and a few months ago the Department of Homeland Security said it was terminating the program.

In a statement provided by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, the sheriff was described as engaging in biased enforcement of the laws under the banner of fighting illegal immigration. The case could go to court if the sides cannot come to an agreement on the ways to fix the discriminatory activity.

Immigrants, both legal and illegal, face various challenges in today's society. It is important that they know what legal options and rights they have as they seek visas, employment and U.S. citizenship.

Source: Associated Press, "Feds: NC sheriff and deputies targeted Latinos," Michael Biesecker, Sept. 18, 2012

• Obtaining visas and citizenship can be a difficult, but rewarding, task. If you would like to learn more, please visit our Greensboro family-based immigration page.

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