Residents protest Beaufort County immigration task force

Protesters took to the streets in Bluffton and Beaufort to say no to Sheriff's request for 287(g) task force targeting undocumented immigrants.

BEAUFORT COUNTY, Sc. (WSAV) – After weeks of uneasiness in the Lowcountry immigrant community, nearly 200 people held demonstrations in Bluffton and the City of Beaufort Tuesday, protesting the Beaufort County Sheriff’s request to reinstate the 287(g) Task Force, which would target undocumented immigrants.

“What is the purpose of this task force other than to intimidate and undermine our immigrant community?” said Pat Jackson who came out to protest.

“Our Hispanic community really helps us, they help our economy, they do the work that nobody else really wants to do,” said Amy Taylor, another protester. 

Taylor protested for her daughter-in-law, who came from Peru with her son on a fiancé visa two years ago.

“They have paid tens of thousands of dollars for this over the four-year process, and still don’t have a green card. But with this task force, they can do racial profiling, they can see she’s Hispanic, they can take her from her children or they can go and take either of her children,” Taylor said. 

She has lived in Beaufort for ten years and says the previous 287 task force only strained relationships between the people and the police. 

“The Hispanic community did lose a lot of trust, and when that happens, they don’t call when there’s domestic abuse, they don’t call the police when there’s child abuse,” Taylor said. 

And it’s not only the Hispanic community, Manuel Cantoria came from the Philippines in 1996. 

“I started carrying my passport card because as of a certain day in January our-our our South Carolina drivers licenses are no longer valid ID at airports,” he said. 

Organizers say the terms of the task force are too vague for the resources it would require. 

“It’s not as a result of a crime, it could be a crime, or it could be fixing to be a crime or something very very vague,” said Alison Davidow the leader of Beaufort SC Indivisible, “It’s gonna take money and overtime, because the federal program does not pay local law enforcement for its participation.”

Sheriff P.J. Tanner held a news conference, he says, to dispel any rumors that are out there about the immigration program and the sheriff’s office’s role in it. He wanted to make clear that the sheriff’s office will “not” be involved in deporting people, especially if they are here legally. The program is designed to target criminal immigrants, people with a record, and considered a danger to the community.

“This is a tool for law enforcement and will be used as a tool for law enforcement. And the policies and procedures for my office are very, very strict. We are nationally accredited,” said Tanner, “We do things the right way and will continue to do things the right way.”

Tanner says the program is valuable for law enforcement and he has not heard of major complaints about profiling in his department.

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