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Legal Mexican Turns Self In to Make a Statement
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August 02, 2008, 04:24 PM
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Here`s a story from Alamance County, North Carolina, about a legal Mexican who turned himself in to make a statement:
Jose Duarte came to the Alamance County Sheriff`s Department expecting to be arrested. Instead, he received a lesson on the inner workings of the sheriff`s department...Duarte, 36, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, had contacted the media in advance to let them know of his plans to turn himself in as a protest for the recent arrest of a Graham library worker who was working in the country illegally."I want to bring attention to the Marxavi (Angel) Martinez situation," he told the Times-News before he showed up at the department.
So what exactly was the Marxavi Martinez situation that Duarte`s stunt was calling attention to?
Earlier this month, and at the petition of Sheriff Terry Johnson, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents began investigating 23-year-old Martinez. She was eventually charged with aggravated identity theft and other felonies for using the Social Security number of a dead person to gain employment in a county library. She is currently under a federal detainer and faces deportation.
That sounds just to me. But not to Marxavi`s fellow Mexican Jose Duarte.
To have her arrested, Duarte said, "is completely arbitrary." In Duarte`s view, he and Martinez are no different. Both had Mexican parents and both grew up in this country. The only distinction, he said, was that unlike him, Martinez did not have government-issued documents. To show his discontent, and to make a point, Duarte decided to protest at the sheriff`s department."I`m Mexican and I don`t have any documentation on me so I am turning myself in," Duarte told a very baffled receptionist at the sheriff`s department. "If they are going to arrest the librarian they can arrest me because I like books," Duarte commented as he waited for an answer to his request.
The Alamance County Sheriff`s Department would have none of it.
But as Duarte soon discovered, federal agents - not local deputies - are responsible for enforcing immigration laws. "I guess the appropriate place would be to go to an immigration office," Maj. Tim Britt told Duarte after he was told of his request."You don`t want to book me?" Duarte asked."No sir, we don`t arrest on immigration violations," Britt answered. "That would be the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (office). I`d be glad to get you a number for them." After a short exchange with Britt and Sheriff Johnson, Duarte left the department a free man.
Alamance County Sheriff Johnson made it clear that his department doesn`t enforce immigration law.
"He was surprised that we didn`t arrest him," Johnson said of Duarte during an impromptu press conference after the man left the sheriff`s department. "Had he violated the law, certainly we would have arrested him." Johnson said he was surprised to come into the office to find Duarte surrounded by the media. But, he said, that doesn`t change the way his department operates. He said he explained to Duarte that it is not his department`s duty to arrest people on immigration violations. He said his department does not make a distinction between legal or illegal residents when it comes to violating the law. In Martinez` case it was identity theft.
So the sheriff says his department "does not make a distinction between legal or illegal residents when it comes to violating the law"? Sheriff Johnson blatantly contradicted himself when he said that
"I don`t have a choice as sheriff to enforce the law. I cannot selectively enforce the laws of this state and nation," he said. "As long as I am wearing the Alamance County Sheriff`s Department`s badge ... I am going to enforce the law straight across the board."
But Sheriff, you just said you didn´t enforce immigration law! So you do selectively enforce the law! For more on the case, read "Protester Gets a Lesson on the Law, Leaves a Free Man" by Karen Rivas, The TimesNews.com, July 31st, 2008. What do you suppose would happen to me here in Mexico if I tried a stunt like this? You can email Sheriff Johnson at terry.johnson@alamance-nc.com .