Commissioners Hear Support for 287G Thompson Honored https://www.blueridgenow.com/news/20181203/commissioners-hear-support-for-287g-program-thompson-honored
The new Henderson County Board of Commissioners kicked off its tenure Monday night with discussion of a road widening project and new park restroom facilities. Members also heard from the public about concerns related to the sheriff’s contract with federal immigration authorities.
The meeting marked a new chapter in the story of the board, as one new member was sworn in for her first term and two others for additional four-year terms.
In November’s election, Commissioners Bill Lapsley and Mike Edney earned another term, though it was just a formality for Rebecca McCall, who took her seat Monday night after winning the Republican primary for the seat back in May.
Edney and McCall were sworn in by outgoing Commissioner Tommy Thompson, who announced his retirement last year. Lapsley was sworn in by Henderson County Superior Court Judge Peter B. Knight.
Afterward, Thompson was presented with a framed photo of the Historic Courthouse alongside the placards with his name and positions that adorned his seat at the dais, as well as a plaque and commemorative coin.
Thompson, who has served since 2010, including three years each as vice chairman and chairman, gave emotional comments, speaking highly of the county officials and staff. He thanked them for everything they’ve done while he was in office as commissioner and as clerk of Superior Court.
“My 40 years have been absolutely wonderful,” he said, giving plenty of credit to his wife and family. “I’ve enjoyed every moment.”
After Edney, Lapsley and McCall were sworn in, the board voted Grady Hawkins as the new chair, and Lapsley as vice chair.
Speakers stand behind ICE agreement
Eight of the 11 residents who signed up to address the board Monday spoke out in favor of the 287(g) agreement the Sheriff’s Office currently has with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to screen foreign-born persons for their immigration status after they’re arrested in the county. If found to be in the country illegally, the program allows ICE to begin the deportation process.
Speakers cited a petition delivered to Sheriff Lowell Griffin Monday by members of First Congregational Church of Christ urging him to reconsider the county’s agreement. Griffin has said he plans to review the agreement closely.
Speakers asked the commissioners to voice their opinion on the matter and to schedule a public meeting with an ICE representative in order to get the details to the community about the specifics of the program, which they said ensures the safety of residents.
Jim Bailes told the board that in 2018 so far, there have been 44 instances of the program being used and of those, nine people were deported. That’s down from 82 instances and 30 deportations in 2017 out of a foreign national population in the county of 10,000.
He estimated that those numbers would continue to decrease next year, but said what’s more important is the “deterrent factor.” He added that some people who would normally have come to Henderson County might not thanks to the program, deterring potential crimes.
Others described the program as successful and said that if it were to end, it would put residents at risk of everything from more crime to infectious diseases.