BURLINGTON — The five democratic candidates for Alamance County Commissioners all vowed to push back against the possibility of the county’s controversial 287(g) program.

The program was a federal partnership with Immigrations Custom Enforcement, also known as ICE, to house detainees in the county jail. 

“Separating families is wrong and the government’s been doing in one way or another since the beginning of its time,” said a teary-eyed Kristen Powers. “This is something I will fight the sheriff on and he knows I will fight him on it.”

Sheriff Terry Johnson said in 2018 that the county would not be rejoining the program, but last year, the County Commission signed off on two-$2.8 million contracts for the U.S. Marshals Service and ICE to hold inmates.

“We need to figure out in our society how to keep people out of jail not put people in jail,” said candidate Bob Byrd.

Last year, over 200 people across North Carolina were detained in the month of January alone, according to ICE.

We have to start with our own party for the government to show our leadership and how we want things to start in Alamance county,” candidate Henry Vines said.

“It’s just a tool they want to use to create fear in Alamance county,” candidate Anthony Pierce said.

“It doesn’t belong in Alamance County,” candidate Dreama Caldwell said. “When you have policies like that, you make certain communities targets of crimes.”

There are three positions open in the primary election on March 3, but only three open seats on the Alamance County Board of Commissioners in November.

Democratic party leadership said the debate is part of a larger effort to turn out voters and flip Alamance County blue. Candidate for North Carolina State House for District 63 Ricky Hurtado said despite the county voting for President Donald Trump (R) by 13 points and for Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) by 15 points, the issues facing the county are much bigger than just red or blue.

“We’ve been connecting with voters individually and making sure that we hear from them,” said Hurtado.” It’s much less about us telling them this is my platform and this is what I’m running for but it’s more about let me hear your concerns let me hear what’s happening in your life.”

Alamance County Republican Party Chairman Ben York said in a statement, “I think we have a great group of candidates, and we have confidence that once they get past the primary that they will win in the fall.”