CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On his first day in office, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden ended the 287(g) program that allowed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to operate within the Mecklenburg County Jail.
The voluntary federal program has allowed ICE to operate within the jail since 2006. According to the sheriff's office, Mecklenburg was one of only 78 counties nationwide - out of more than 3,000 - that had the voluntary arrangement.
Sheriff McFadden pledged he would end the program while he was running for office. The morning after being sworn in, he notified ICE he was doing just that.
“Today I’m ending ICE’s 287(g) program in Mecklenburg County and joining the majority of police and sheriff departments around the country who have declined to do ICE’s bidding because it erodes trust with our community and ties up critical resources that should be used to ensure public safety,” said Sheriff McFadden. “My commitment has been – and will remain – keeping this community safe. By ending this program, I will utilize unlimited office resources on preventing serious crimes and to improve public safety in our communities.”
Back in May, WBTV’s Amanda Foster spoke to former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Chipp Bailey.
He warned there may be some “unintended consequences” to pulling the plug on the 287(g) program.
“You’re going to have people get picked up, if they’re going after this one guy, and they go in this house and there’s five others there…they’re going to pick them up too,” Bailey said at the time.
Speaking generally, ICE officials confirmed the theory of the former Mecklenburg County Sheriff.
They say under 278(g), anyone arrested and found to be in the country illegally is put on a hold, in the jail. But if the program does not exist and that person is released, ICE could still receive a notification of that person's whereabouts, and seek them out at their home or place of work.
They say if they encounter any other illegal immigrants while doing that, they will not turn a blind eye.
"ICE has to go out into the community," ICE spokesperson Bryan Coz says. "We have to go to a residence, we have to go to a business, we have to pull a vehicle over, whatever it may be, to make that arrest for ourselves."
Still, Cox says these at-large arrests are not the department's preferred method.
“[If] they’re in a jail, they don’t have weapons, they’ve been screened,” he says. “If they’re released out to the street, there may be weapons in play. It’s a greater risk for ICE, it’s a greater risk for the person being arrested, it’s also a greater risk for the community as a whole.”
The sheriff is scheduled to hold a ‘Ceremonial Signing’ of his letter to ICE at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Manola’s Bakery on Central Avenue.