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Hispanic community holds forum to inform residents following recent ICE detainments

El Centro Hispano also has a location on W Weaver Street in Carrboro, which opened in 2015.

Around 100 community members gathered at the “Know Your Rights” event in the Carrboro Century Center Saturday morning.

The forum was hosted in response to recent reports by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the detainment of at least 25 individuals in Orange County. The event was organized by El Centro Hispano, a nonprofit jointly founded in 1992 by Catholic and Episcopal churches to serve the Hispanic population in Orange County. 

The program was streamed live on Facebook and included statements from elected officials, law enforcement and community leaders on how to handle an encounter with ICE authorities.  

Carrboro Aldermen member Jacquelyn Gist emphasized the value of the Hispanic community to the town of Carrboro.

"I want to assure you that everyone in this room is a member of our community and is valued and welcome as much as anyone else in our community,” Gist said.

Damon Seils, Carrboro Board of Aldermen member, emphasized the importance of allowing immigrant populations to feel safe in the local community. 

"I know it's been a difficult week for many of you and for the community,” Seils said. “Carrboro and Orange County should be safe places for everyone in this room."

Michael Parker, member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, echoed the sentiments of the Carrboro Aldermen.

"The town of Chapel Hill welcomes you, supports you and wants to protect you in any way we can,” Parker said.

Attorney Beckie Moriello of the National Immigration Project presented some common scenarios that involve immigration enforcement and how undocumented individuals can communicate with them within their rights.

"It's easy to see someone in a uniform that appears to have authority and think that you're required to answer questions,” she said. “And that's not always the case."

ICE has reportedly deceptively showed photos of unidentified Latinx individuals to Latinx community members. ICE will use this as an excuse to enter local residents' homes, ask for their identification and take undocumented residents into custody. 

The ICE office for the region that Orange County falls into is located in Atlanta. The 25 undocumented individuals have been sent to the Atlanta office and are being detained there, officials said at the meeting.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood spoke about building a trusting relationship between the immigrant community and law enforcement in order to make the community safer.

"Trust is a hard thing to gain and an easy thing to lose,” Blackwood said. “We're willing to do the work to gain your trust if you're willing to give it to us."

Blackwood emphasized that local law enforcement does not share information with ICE authorities and is not involved with immigration enforcement. 

N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, spoke to the scope of the impact ICE detainments have on the local communities.

"For many years I worked for the Chapel Hill schools and worked with many of you families,” Meyer said. “And this week I'm very sad because two of my students had their father picked up and taken away."


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