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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has detained three Winston-Salem residents who are suspected of living in the U.S. illegally, an immigration advocacy group says.

Since Jan. 29, ICE agents picked up three men, Mauricio de La Cruz, Milton Orozco and Jorge Luis Perea-Hernandez, said Andrew Willis Garces, a spokesman for Siembra NC, an advocacy group that supports immigrants and helps them cope with ICE’s detention efforts in their communities.

Since January, ICE has detained suspected undocumented immigrants in 12 North Carolina counties, including Forsyth, Guilford and Surry, according to the Raleigh-based N.C. Policy Watch.

Lindsay Williams, an ICE spokesman in its Atlanta office, declined to comment Monday on any current ICE operations. ICE agents arrest suspects daily, he said.

“If that happened, then it happened,” Williams said of ICE’s actions in Winston-Salem and across North Carolina. “Just like any other law enforcement agency, we have the ability to arrest people — minus a few places — most anywhere they go.”

Garces said he gathered details about ICE detaining the three men by speaking directly with their family members.

Cruz, a native of Mexico, was detained by ICE at 6 a.m. on Jan. 29 while he was leaving his home to go to his job as a painter, Garces said in an email. Cruz tried to enter the United States last year because several of his family members were killed in Guerrero, Mexico, but he was detained and deported by U.S. authorities at the border with Mexico.

Cruz later re-entered the U.S. without being inspected by U.S. immigration or a border patrol officer, Garces said. Since he has been detained by ICE, his wife gave up their apartment lease and lives with her father in Rowan County.

ICE agents detained Orozco, a native of Guatemala, at his job in Winston-Salem on Feb. 12, Garces said. Orozco, who has worked at his job for 21 years, is married and has five children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

Garces said that Orozco didn’t begin the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen because he entered the U.S. without being inspected by a federal immigration or border patrol officer, his spouse wasn’t a U.S. citizen and his oldest child hadn’t reached her 21st birthday. Those requirements are necessary under U.S. immigration laws, Garces said.

On Feb. 26, Perea-Hernandez, a native of Mexico, was detained by ICE agents when he visited his state probation officer in Winston-Salem, Garces said.

Perea-Hernandez, 48, was convicted in September of assault on a female and communicating threats, both misdemeanors, court records show. Perea-Hernandez was accused of throwing his ex-wife to the ground, putting her in a chokehold and threatening to kill her, according to an arrest warrant and a court document.

A judge gave Perea-Hernandez a suspended 150-day jail term, placed him on supervised probation for one year and ordered him to pay a $250 fine and pay $180 in court costs, a court records shows.

Garces said that Perea-Hernandez should have been allowed to complete his probationary sentence.

“There was no due process for him,” Garces said. “His (former) wife doesn’t want to be the only person taking care of their child.”

His wife called Winston-Salem police when Perea-Hernandez allegedly attacked her, Garces said.

“She feels terrible now,” Garces said.

His ex-wife is receiving financial assistance from Siembra NC’s Immigrant Solidarity Fund, but she is uncertain how she will pay the rent for March, Garces said. The two have lived in Winston-Salem since 1996.

ICE agents who are working with state probation and parole officers have found a way around the measures adopted by several urban sheriffs of not honoring ICE detainers on suspected undocumented immigrants in county jails, Garces said.

State probation and parole officers have a policy of working with ICE agents to identify and help remove immigrants illegally living in the U.S. and under the probation and parole officers’ supervision, said Greg Thomas, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Probation and parole officers work in that agency.

In Forsyth County, there are 68 probation and parole officers who supervise 3,863 offenders, according to the latest statistics available from the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

Garces said ICE’s actions are violating the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution that protects residents from unlawful searches and seizures by government agents.

In detaining the three men, ICE agents acted within their authority, said Christina Howell, a spokeswoman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. of Forsyth County announced in February 2019 that his office will continue to work with federal law-enforcement agencies, but it would end a contract that allows ICE agents to extend jail time for people suspected of being undocumented immigrants in the Forsyth County Jail.

“ICE is notified of anyone whose immigration status we are unable to confirm when they enter the detention facility ...,” Howell said. “We do not hold an individual in our custody beyond the time of which they have met the conditions of their release as we will not knowingly violate an individual’s rights.

“ICE agents have the authority and ability to come to the detention center and assume custody of an individual,” Howell said.

jhinton@wsjournal.com

336-727-7299

@jhintonWSJ

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