On November 3, a carpenter named Camilo Coronilla Loyola was delivering cabinets to a customer when he was pulled over by Fuquay-Varina police. It was just before 6:00 p.m. and already dark.
An officer asked to see his driver’s license, but Coronilla Loyola, who is undocumented, didn’t have one. The officer let Coronilla Loyola go and told him not to drive again. But there was no one who could pick him up, so he cranked the engine and drove for a block before red and blue lights once again flashed behind him.
“They didn’t give him a ticket that time. They cuffed him,” says Carolina Campos, Coronilla Loyola’s wife.
Police charged Coronilla Loyola with driving without a license, and he was taken to the Wake County Detention Center. At a court hearing on November 8, a judge asked why Coronilla Loyola was still being detained five days later for a minor infraction. The answer: Wake County’s controversial partnership with federal immigration authorities under the 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement to coordinate with ICE in order to detain and deport undocumented residents.
The next morning, ICE agents took Coronilla Loyola to a facility in Georgia. He now faces deportation to Mexico.
His arrest was a matter of bad luck. If he’s deported, it’ll be a matter of bad timing. On December 3—a month after Coronilla Loyola was detained—Gerald Baker will be sworn in as Wake County’s new sheriff, following a contentious campaign focused largely on 287(g). Baker promised to end Wake’s participation in the program. Incumbent sheriff Donnie Harrison stood by it, calling it “a valuable tool that has identified some very dangerous individuals.”
Baker won decisively—but his victory likely came too late to help Coronilla Loyola or others like him. Since Harrison partnered with ICE in 2007, more than fifteen hundred Wake County undocumented immigrants have been deported through 287(g), many after having been picked up over traffic violations.
In an interview Friday, Baker told the INDY that he intends to make good on his promise, though he’s still figuring out how to disentangle the Sheriff’s Office from ICE.
“I am looking to stand by what I said I was going to do,” Baker says. “I’m trying to go to [the Sheriff’s Office] leadership so we can sit down and look at that program and find out how we are going to do what we said we we’re going to do.”
Mecklenburg County Sheriff-elect Garry McFadden has also pledged to end the program. He prevailed in May’s Democratic primary over an incumbent who supported Mecklenburg’s participation in 287(g). In response to McFadden’s victory, ICE threatened to ramp up immigration enforcement.
Nationally, seventy-eight law enforcement agencies use the program, and the number of localized ICE partnerships has nearly doubled since President Trump took office. Ten agencies have ended 287(g) agreements following community campaigns against the program, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
“I don’t think we know what the transition is going to look like” in Wake County, says state ACLU advocacy director Sarah Gillooly. “The deportation proceedings move really quickly. It is a good question how many people will be held on ICE detainers on the day the sheriff-elect takes office.”
Not honoring these detainers is the first step to cutting ties with the program, according to UNC law professor Deborah Weissman, who notes that courts have ruled the detainers in violation of the Fourth Amendment because they allow Wake County to hold people after they otherwise would’ve been released.
But merely ending the program might not be enough, Weissman says. The Sheriff’s Office will need to rebuild the public trust eroded by the program, whether through community outreach or by seeking to suppress evidence in ongoing immigration proceedings obtained through the program.
Whatever steps Baker takes probably won’t benefit Coronilla Loyola.
“I don’t think there’s any recourse for people who have already been handed over and in the removal proceedings, not in so far as Wake County can undertake,” Weissman says.
“He’s desperate, sad. He wants to get out,” Campos says of her husband. “He doesn’t want to leave the kids.”