GRAHAM, NC — An Alamance County man set to be deported later this year says he was unfairly profiled and arrested by Alamance County deputies.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Salvador Alvarado on June 2, 2010 for driving without a license. Deputies then determined he was in the country illegally and notified ICE, who began deportation proceedings which are now in their final stages.
The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office says Alvarado was arrested for an equipment violation, but could not specify what that violation was, as the incident occurred more than two years ago.
“I don’t know what else it is. Racism exists in the department,” Alvarado said in Spanish. “They asked me if I had guns and drugs, treated me like a dog.”
Alvarado’s claims come after the US Department of Justice released a letter of finding Tuesday, accusing the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office of widespread, systemic discrimination against Latinos since June of 2010.
When asked if Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson was racist against Latinos, Alvarado’s immigration attorney Jeremy McKinney replied flatly, “yes.” He went on to say of Alvarado’s case, “This is a cop who saw a guy driving down the street with a suntan and pulled him over.”
McKinney said some prejudice is natural.
“But do we act on our prejudice? That’s the line between legal and illegal. In Alamance County they acted on their prejudice,” McKinney said.
Randy Jones, spokesman for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department joined Sheriff Terry Johnson and Alamance County Special Counsel Chuck Kitchen in denying the DOJ’s assertions as well as those of Alvarado.
“Not one name has been provided to us. We have not had one complaint. We’ve yet to have a day in court and been able to face our accuser,” said sheriff’s office spokesperson.
Alamance County had demanded a hearing with USDOJ lawyers Tuesday to try to get more information on why the department was being investigated. That hearing was set for September 26 in Winston-Salem.
According to Alamance County Attorney Clyde Albright, hours after that hearing was scheduled, the USDOJ dropped its lawsuit against Alamance County and released its letter of finding to the press without any communication with Alamance County.
Because of that series of events, Jones, Albright, Sheriff Johnson, and Kitchen believe the USDOJ’s motives are political, claiming the department simply wants to make Sheriff Johnson look bad.
As a result of the USDOJ’s letter, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ended its agreement with the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, which had allowed local law enforcement to assist ICE in certain aspects of immigration enforcement.
The department no longer has access to a database showing the immigration status of all people arrested within the county.
Because the USDOJ letter is simply a letter of finding — not a lawsuit, nor an order from a federal judge — the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office is not required to change any of its procedures.
The USDOJ has threatened litigation if Sheriff Johnson does not make changes.