Former sheriff, ICE: removal of 287(g) could mean increased immigration enforcement

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County's immigration enforcement is expected to see a significant shift under sheriff-elect Garry McFadden.

McFadden ran in part on a promise to end controversial program 287(g), which involves a database to check the immigration status of people booked into the Mecklenburg County jail.

"We are going to deal with it because I still oppose it, and it's not going to be around when I'm sheriff," he said election night. "We're going to dismantle 287(g)."

When McFadden is sworn in, many of those who voted him in expect his action to be swift in eliminating the program.

"It may be that he can just request that they shut it down, and that'll be that," former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Chipp Bailey says. "But there may be some unintended consequences that come from it."

"Unintended consequences," like more immigration enforcement in the area.

"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 says.

Speaking generally, ICE officials confirmed this theory, Wednesday.

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."

After McFadden's win over incumbent Irwin Carmichael Tuesday night, many considered it a victory for Mecklenburg County's Latin American community, as well.

"I personally felt very thankful to everyone in our community who went out to vote," Stefania Arteaga of the activist group Comunidad Colectiva says.

When asked if there is concern over potential increased ICE enforcement in the community, she claims it already exists in the county.

"The reality is that ICE is already out in the community," Arteaga says. "It's not stopping them, they have a program in the local jail, but they're still coming out in the community."

Cox says any county that removes 287(g) also needs to make further decisions about the overall inclusion of ICE enforcement in the area.

"Does a jurisdiction, by opting out of 287(g), intend that to be more broadly a lack of cooperation with ICE," he says. "By opting out of 287(g) and not allowing ICE, basically barring ICE as a federal law enforcement agency from access to a local jurisdiction, to do those checks for itself?"

Cox says both ICE and any given jurisdiction can choose to withdraw from the program at any time.

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