Thank you all for joining us today and for your interest in this work.
A little over 10 years ago, Sheriffs across this state began to engage in restrictive/aggressive immigration enforcement practices at the local level. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be studying and challenging these programs while completing my dissertation study. I also didn’t know that I’d be having conversations about it with communities across the state and with my own family. My interest is partially academic but as we all know, the personal is political and my stake is also a selfish one. You see, members of my family are undocumented and the sheriff of the county i call home has a 287(g) program–a local law enforcement partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, meaning that family meals can range from fiestas/moments of joy to giving thanks that everyone has made it another year in this country without being deported.
Yet, Max (Executive Director of Sheriffs for Trusting Communities and friend) and I often talk about the longer legacies of these sheriffs. A legacy rooted in white supremacy, particularly here in the south when they were instrumental as slave catching patrols. James Baldwin said,
In many ways, perhaps in the deepest ways, the minister and the Sheriff were hired by the Republic to keep the Republic white–to keep it from sin.
Black scholars like W.E.B. Dubois and James Baldwin were writing about that history but I am thankful that I got to learn that history in a somewhat disjointed manner here in Durham. On the one hand, I was learning about immigration enforcement over in Wake County with comites (Comite de Accion Popular and Comite Popular Somos Raleigh) in predominantly Spanish speaking spaces. While here in Durham, I was a founding member of Durham Beyond Policing and eventually would serve on the City of Durham Human Relations Commission. As I was wrapping up my PhD work
here in Durham, my last report was on the Durham County Detention Center (and I brought copies since we unfortunately did not get to present those in local government meetings). That report was a moment for us to also synthesize the all of the issues with the jail and with the Sheriff at the time. And what I saw and what I hope SFTC can continue to play a role in is bringing these areas together, because a joint analysis makes us stronger and begins to build the relationships we need to get free.
Much of this work was an experiment and we struggled to get folks on board at times but people were also grateful to be joining in robust conversations about the role of sheriffs—a role that often goes neglected.
To wrap up, last year, we were considering where we would be for the election. We knew our coalition partners were the first in the state
in May 2018 to defeat Carmichael in Mecklenburg County—spurring both hope and anticipation. And on Election Day, I found myself in a bar
with Max to watch the results that Clarence Birkhead had won here in
Durham but also that Gerald Baker had won in Raleigh–ensuring that two 287(g) programs would be ended in this state–a state where Sheriffs have gone unchecked for a long time. I started to tear up and many folks in this room know that I don’t like to show emotion. But they were both tears of joy and built up pain. Joy for my comrades who have spent their lives fighting with and for those on the inside. Joy for the future possibilities of reform on our way to abolition. But pain for those like my friends in Raleigh who first brought me to an understanding of the 287(g) program and how one of the organizers’ son was one of the first arrested and deported in that program. Pain for “Niecey” Fennell’s family (a 17 year old who died while in the Durham jail in 2017) and for the families of those who have died in jails (44 in 2018). and pain for those who are disappeared from our communities through the prison industrial complex.
We have a lot of work to do but I’m committed to this work and to this organization because I’ve seen what happens when communities come together to challenge the status quo. I am proud to be standing with many of you in this room who are working toward collective liberation and
3/18/2019: And the Attacks Keep Coming
2/22/2019: Labor and Immigration
2/14/2019: The “New” Normal