HARRISONBURG — FUEGO (Friends United for Equity and Grassroots Organizing) Coalition continued its call for the Rockingham County Jail to end its collaboration with U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement.
Boris Ozuna, a FUEGO member, said Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson’s policy of holding illegal immigrants booked into the jail needs to end.
“Every human being has rights,” Ozuna said Friday. “Every human being, whether you’re an immigrant or not.”
Ozuna’s comments came during a panel discussion on immigration detention at The Institute for Reform and Solutions’ two-day conference to discuss the criminal justice system and the effect it has on the community.
A partnership with Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Community Criminal Justice Days was held Thursday and Friday at EMU’s Campus Center.
Since the institute was founded in 2012, there have been three conferences, with this year’s theme being “Breaking the Cycle.”
The institute is a nonprofit that advocates for greater education and understanding of criminal justice reform, according to a press release.
The conference will focus on how to reduce incarceration and recidivism in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, according to a press release. The conference featured 11 sessions on a variety of topics, such as immigration detention, workforce training, addiction, juvenile delinquency and mental health.
Ozuna called on those attending the conference to work toward pressuring the sheriff to end his collaboration with ICE.
“There’s no structural change that has been made without community mobilization,” he said, adding that marches and protests have worked on other issues.
Hutcheson said he plans to continue working with ICE.
He said the process only begins when someone is arrested and booked into the jail. He said deputies electronically notify Homeland Security when someone meets certain criteria. Federal agents then check the name in a federal database and decide to issue a custody order.
Hutcheson said releasing the individuals before ICE takes custody could put the public’s safety in danger.