Lowcountry residents protest BCSO sheriff's immigration request

Lowcountry residents Protest BCSO Sheriff's immigration request
Updated: Mar. 14, 2017 at 7:12 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - Lowcountry residents spoke out against the Beaufort County Sheriff's request to reinstate 287(G) during rallies on Tuesday.

This program would allow deputies to act as immigration officers. About 75 members of the organization Beaufort Indivisible stood across the street from the sheriff's office and made their voices heard against the proposed immigration task force. They marched along the streets of Beaufort, ending in front of the sheriff's office with signs and chants to send a message. They say it's not about being anti-law enforcement. If anything, they say it's more in support of them, but it's more about what these officers are allowed to do in their community.

The group is protesting Sheriff P.J. Tanner's request made to the Department of Homeland Security to devote a number of deputies to enforcing immigration laws. Members of the activist group say this would be detrimental to the community.

'Local cops, local laws' was the message the group delivered to the sheriff's office.

"Sheriff, we're a community. We want everybody to feel as if they are part of a community," said Pamela Brandon.

"The idea of a task force made up of deputies performing federal work that targets immigration is going to be a terrible message to our immigrant families, breeding fear, mistrust that's going to last for years and years," said Alison Davidow, Beaufort SC Indivisible Leader. "There's lots more that they could do here in the county. We need them badly because we are not crime-free by any means."

Many at the rally expressed their concerns over using local officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

"They should be doing their work with local communities and fighting local crime, and not doing the federal government's work," said Jeff Baker.

They say this would damage their community, and that's why they are taking a stand.

"I am in support of diversity in our community and in our country. I'm delighted that we have Latinos among us in our population," said Stan Shawnee Boyd.

"There is a spirit here, and I think people are finally beginning to realize that they have a say in these matters. Whereas before, they might not have," said Arnold Hillman.

Members of the group had everyone fill out index cards with messages for the sheriff that they all put into an envelope and delivered right to his door. They said it wasn't about writing a formal letter - it was more of having their emotions and their messages jotted down so the sheriff could really see where they were coming from.

Sheriff Tanner says he offered to meet with folks at the rallies, but was told 'no.'

"You know, look. People have the right to protest. As long as it is done legally, you are welcome. As long as you are not impeding the public. As far as the protest in Beaufort and Bluffton, I respect what they do and appreciate the delivery of the letter, but based on my knowledge of 287G, my mind is not changing on my request," he said.

The sheriff says he plans on reading through the box of letters sent to his office.

The group says they plan to continue their efforts against this measure and will be planning more protests like Tuesday's. There is no word yet on when those will be.

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