CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden has not returned calls and emails from leaders with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency said, despite repeated calls from McFadden for he and the agency to sit down together and find a solution to their ongoing problems.
McFadden has refused to cooperate with ICE since taking office in late December of last year. The Sheriff ran on a platform of ending the 287(g) program, which allows local officials limited ability to enforce federal immigration laws. But, since taking office, McFadden has extended his non-cooperation to include refusing to honor ICE detainers and not notifying the agency when inmates who may be in the country illegally are being released from custody.
ICE issues a detainer--a request that an inmate be held and transferred to ICE custody, which, like the immigration process is non-judicial--when it becomes aware that someone thought to be in the country illegally is in local custody.
McFadden has said the detainers are illegal and has challenged federal authorities to issue arrest warrants for individuals who they want to remain in custody.
Last month, on a day when ICE leaders visited Charlotte from Washington, D.C. to highlight people charged with violent crimes that McFadden had released from jail despite a detainer, McFadden called on ICE to meet with him and set a new path forward towards cooperation.
“This is when you sit down and talk to someone. This is when you come into town and say, ‘how can we help with that problem?’” McFadden said at the time.
But in an interview with WBTV this week, a spokesman for ICE said officials from his agency met with McFadden once in October and then had a series of emails and phone calls go unreturned.
Bryan Cox, the Acting Press Secretary for ICE, told WBTV the agency’s records show McFadden had a phone call with the Field Office Director of the Atlanta Field Office--whose territory includes Charlotte--on October 3, one week after the ICE visit and dueling press conferences with McFadden.
That same day, records show, the field office director sent a follow-up email to McFadden requesting an in-person meeting.
“Hello Sheriff McFadden, it was good speaking with you today regards to coming up with an agreeable solution on the ICE warrants and Detainers issue,” Field Office Director John Tsoukaris wrote in an email to McFadden after their call. “Please contact me once you have discussed with your staff and perhaps we can set up a follow-up call or meeting.”
Copies of the email provided by Cox show it was sent to two addresses for McFadden, including the address published for McFadden on the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association website.
Cox said staff at the Atlanta field office followed up with a phone call to McFadden’s office a week after the email but did not get a response.
Cox said Tsoukaris then personally called McFadden and left another message on October 11. That message did not get returned, Cox said.
But, in an interview late Thursday night, McFadden denied getting any follow-up calls or emails from ICE after the initial call on October 3.
“No," McFadden responded when asked if he had received any phone calls from ICE. ”I have not received an email," he said in response to a follow-up question.
“I see how they play these games. We had one conversation. One,” McFadden said.
During that one phone call, McFadden said he told ICE officials he did not want to start honoring ICE detainers without first consulting local and national sheriffs groups.
“We had a conversation on the phone and here’s what I said ‘I can’t create something that no other sheriff’s office is doing,'” McFadden said. “I said let me check with the national sheriff association and the local sheriff association.”
The details of the communication between McFadden and ICE comes as the agency releases new information about nine people currently in the Mecklenburg County jail on felony charges, many of them violent, including murder and indecent liberties with a child.
“We’re highlighting individuals, again, that are in that county jail,” Henry Lucero, Acting Deputy Associate Executive Director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations told WBTV in an interview. “We’re just giving a sampling of who these people are that are in there.”
Lucero said the agency is releasing information about these individuals because ICE believes they may be released soon, despite an ICE detainer, and the agency has no way of knowing when they leave the county jail.
“We don’t have a crystal ball. They could post bond, if they have a bond set against them. They could complete their sentence. They could be released early. By not having that cooperation with the local sheriffs, ICE has no way of knowing when they’re going to be released,” Lucero said.
Both Lucero and Cox, the press secretary, said the agency is still willing to work with McFadden to find a solution to the ongoing disagreement.