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Community coalition asks Wake County sheriff to stand against immigration bill

About a dozen people gathered at the Wake County jail Tuesday to press Sheriff Gerald Baker to move more quickly on his campaign promises and to speak out against a bill that would force the Sheriff’s Office to cooperate with immigration officials.

The group said it was part of the Wake County Sheriff Accountability Coalition, a group of seven organizations committed to ending what it called the criminalization of race and origin in the county.

The coalition applauded Baker’s decision to end participation in the federal 287 (g) immigration-enforcement program, but ”that is not enough,” said Tavon Bridges, 23, of the Education Justice Alliance.

Bridges asked Baker to express his opposition to cooperate with House Bill 370 that would require North Carolina sheriffs to detain a person housed in the jail at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We are asking Gerald Baker to stand with us openly and strong,” Bridges said.

In the November election, Baker, a Democrat, unseated longtime Republican incumbent Donnie Harrison, largely on a platform of ending cooperation with ICE.

The group met in front of the Wake County jail, delivered a letter to Baker at the jail and spoke briefly to reporter along Hammond Road.

The letter and members of the group also called for Baker to Improve treatment of inmates at the jail, especially for youth by reducing the time they spend in their cells and separating girls and women. The group also asked for Baker to help those being released from jail obtain mental health services, including opioid addiction treatment.

Other requests included removing deputies from schools, convening a community oversight board and increasing transparency by sharing data and policies.

The coalition is composed of Familias Si, Migra No, Comite de Accion Popular, Comite Popular Somos Raleigh, Raleigh Police Accountability Community Taskforce, OrchidBloom, Education Justice Alliance, and Youth Organizing Institute.

The Sheriff’s Office didn’t reply to a message from The News & Observer seeking Baker’s comments on the group’s requests..

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