Charlotte city council member wants Meck Co jail to stop 287g immigration check

Charlotte city council member wants Meck Co jail to stop 287g immigration check
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte city council member Braxton Winston says he wants 287g discontinued at the Mecklenburg County jail.

287g is a voluntary federal program that detains jail inmates who are in the country illegally.

Jail officials say anyone who is arrested gets processed at the jail and asked whether he/she is a citizen of the United States and if born in the U-S.

If records show someone is in the country illegally, jail officials say they put a detainer on that inmate and notify federal authorities.

Council member Winston says he met with Sheriff Irwin Carmichael and requested that the county stop 287g in Charlotte.

"The main thing here is it makes our city less safe," Winston told WBTV. "It provides an impossible opportunity for Charlotte Mecklenburg police to gain trust within immigrant communities."

Winston believes the program is putting up barriers between police and some immigrant communities.

"In a city where 18% of Charlotteans are born internationally – nearly 1 in 5 Charlotteans - it is important that our public safety officers are able to facilitate working and trusting relationships with all members of our community," Winston said. "And if something really prevents that, something that is voluntary, something that doesn't present a clear need I think we should reconsider our policies that we're existing under ."

Mecklenburg County has been a part of the program since 2006.

"The contract is signed for three years. So every three years the contract - which is the memorandum of understanding - those memorandums are reviewed and signed off every three years," said Captain Daniel Stitt. "That discretion is the Sheriff."

WBTV requested data for 287g for the last two years.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 1,241 inmates in the Mecklenburg County jail encountered 287g in 2016. A spokesperson for ICE said 100 inmates were removed {deported].

ICE data shows the numbers increased in 2017 when 1,306 inmates in the jail had their immigration status checked under 287g. The spokesperson said 288 inmates were deported or in the process of being deported.

Jail officials say the program helps them identify who exactly is being held, and helps keep the community safe.

They say 287g only focuses on people who were arrested for other crimes and brought to jail for processing and fingerprinting.

"We didn't realize we had the population of foreign-born individuals in our jail in 2006 so to bring in a program that adds another tool, another level to identify folks is a plus for the Sheriff's Office," Capt Stitt said. "Some of these folks that we find are actually fugitives. They're wanted by the Dept of Homeland Security for absconding. Do we ignore those fugitive warrants? There are a lot that sit in our jail that come from CBP, which is Customs Border Protection, at the airport. Should we not hold those folks until they're repatriated to the country they came from?"

Council member Winston says the way he sees it, deportation is the federal government's job. He wants local law enforcement to focus on local laws.

"When people in Charlotte enter the criminal justice system, I believe in our criminal justice system. I believe Charlotteans elect good judges, elect good district attorneys; courts filled with good people from Charlotte. Juries are," Winston said. "I want all people to have a chance to get justice in this situation and I think that starts and begins with Charlotte and Mecklenburg County."

Capt Stitt says "at the point the Sheriff Office has an encounter with these individuals, we place a detainer on that. They're allowed to go on to criminal court and have their charges disposed of."

When the criminal matter is over, ICE then pays the Sheriff's Office a daily rate to hold inmates until federal agents pick them up.

Jail officials say federal inmates are usually transferred within 72 hours.

Winston added, "I'm not here to comment on my interpretations of federal policy. Federal immigration policy is a federal thing and let's be honest about it  - it's broken."

Winston acknowledges that as a Charlotte city council member, he doesn't have the authority to force the Sheriff's Office to discontinue 287g.

"We all have social capital. I'm a representative of the people of Charlotte. I have 1100 sworn members of CMPD. I need to make sure they have the tools that are best, to best complete their mission and do their job. It's my job to advocate for that," Winston said. "I don't have direct purview over entrance or removal from this policy but we do exist in the system. My police officers deliver people into this program every day so I need to advocate and speak up for all of my constituents to make sure this city is run the best that it can be."

Jail officials say the three-year memorandum of understanding between Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office and federal officials expire this year.

It's up the Sheriff to renew or not.

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