The Inside-Outside Alliance and Alerta Migratoria gathered just over thirty people in CCB Plaza Thursday to protest the Durham Sheriff’s Office’s planned implementation of video visitation and its policy of honoring ICE detainers.
The group gathered outside of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners annual conference in an effort to pressure Sheriff Mike Andrews, as the Durham Board of Commissioners has control over the Sheriff’s Office budget.
“The problem with the sheriff is there’s elections every six years, and after he gets elected, he doesn’t have to even talk to a regular member of the public ever again after that,” said David Theurer, a member of the Inside-Outside Alliance. “We can’t really pressure him. We’ve not been able to, so we’re coming to the county commissioners, which is really the most democratically accountable body in the county that has any level of jurisdiction over this.”
Theurer is concerned that, once implemented, video visitation will eventually supplant in person visits, pointing to the removal of sites for in person visitation to make room for the new video equipment.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tamara Gibbs says the jail will still allow in-person visits once its video policy goes into effect on October 15. But, as the Inside-Outside Alliance points out, about 75 percent of jails that have adopted video visitation have eventually phased out in-person visitation entirely. (Wake County currently only allows video visitation.)
“A video just doesn’t equate with being in the same room as a person,” Theurer said. “Even if you have a piece of Plexiglas, being in that same space being able to see them face to face just cannot be replaced by a video screen—essentially a glorified Skype call.”
Theurer added that video visitation also opens the door to charging fees for families to see their loved ones. (Gibbs says on-site video visitations will be free.)
Daniella Hernandez Blanco, with Alerta Migratoria, said she came to protest the sheriff’s practice of complying with ICE detainers.
A detainer is a request issued by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for a jail to hold someone ICE believes may be subject to deportation for forty-eight hours after charges have been dropped to allow ICE to take them into custody.
While the Sheriff’s Office has said it does not participate in the Secure Communities program under which many detainers are issued, the INDY’s previous reporting has found that claim to be spurious at best.
Hernandez Blanco said there is no legal justification for an ICE detainer and that it amounts to a warrantless arrest.
Theurer said the Inside-Outside Alliance and Alerta Migratoria came together because of a shared concern about Sheriff’s Office policies.
Radio Zaidi said the protest was a show of unity from a group of citizens who want to see justice.
“But today these young people, they’re tired,” Zaidi said. “They’re tired of being abused, they’re tired of seeing others abused, and the only thing they want is justice.”