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County changes checkpoint policy following probe

SYLVA (AP) — A civil rights group says a sheriff in western North Carolina has agreed to change the way his department conducts vehicle checkpoints.

Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe was coordinating seatbelt checkpoints with federal immigration officers. But a year ago, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina began investigating after dozens of people complained that the checkpoint was being used to target Latinos. At one checkpoint stop, 15 undocumented immigrants were arrested.

The ACLU said Tuesday the sheriff’s office has agreed to change its practices.

“We are very pleased that Sheriff Ashe has agreed to implement these much-needed reforms to his department’s checkpoint policy,” said Raul Pinto, staff attorney for the organization. “Our investigation into the way the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office conducted vehicle checkpoints found many problematic practices – from the inadequate documentation of checkpoints to the sheriff’s office’s troubling coordination with federal immigration officers – that we hope will now be corrected through these reforms.”

He said the ACLU will continue to monitor this situation and urge any community members who feel their rights have been violated to contact their office.

A telephone message left for Ashe was not immediately returned Tuesday.

But the ACLU says under the agreement, the Jackson County sheriff’s office will no longer coordinate vehicle checkpoints with federal immigration officers, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


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