CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targeted arrests of 12 immigrants, including six who were previously released from jail in Charlotte.
ICE officials say that 12 people who were in the country illegally were arrested in targeted enforcement operations in Mecklenburg County. In total, 24 were arrested in North Carolina, including 12 in the Raleigh and Greensboro areas.
Officials say five of those were turned over to the U.S. Marshal’s Office and have been charged with a felony -- re-entry after deportation.
Six of the arrests were people in the U.S. illegally and had criminal records and then were released back into the community where they were “free to re-offend until their capture,” according to immigration officials.
The operation went from Sept. 21 to Sept. 25.
“We are here because we cannot standby idly while knowing the public is being misled about the role ICE plays in keeping people safe,” ICE Executive Director Henry Lucero said. “That fact is local policies prohibiting agencies from working with ICE put you in danger and waste police resources. The public should hold its leaders accountable and demand to know what type of criminals are being released from local custody instead of turning over to ICE.”
Among those criminal undocumented aliens who were arrested include:
- Jose Ruiz-Quintero, from Nicaragua, who was arrested by Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, on June 15 for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury. He was released from custody on June and was arrested by ICE on Sept. 23.
- Elder Amador-Lopez, from Guatemala, who was arrested on Aug. 23 for assault on a female and driving while intoxicated. He was released from custody on Aug. 27, and arrested by ICE agents on Sept. 24.
- Emmanuel Guillen-Gonzalez, from Nicaragua, was arrested on July 23 from breaking and entering and larceny, ICE officials say he was released from Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office custody on July 21 and arrested on Sept. 22.
“It is time to put aside political rhetoric and look at the facts -- and the fact is, people are hurt and victimized because of jurisdiction that refuse to cooperate with ICE in what should be our shared mission to protect the public,” Lucero said.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, ICE called on the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office to comply with their detainer requests, which essentially holds an inmate in jail as a favor to ICE.
But Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden says it’s his job to follow the law and when an inmate meets their bond requirements signed off by a judicial official, he’s required to release them.
ICE says this is leading to dangerous criminals getting released and being allowed to re-offend.
“We want our local sheriff’s departments in North Carolina, the majority, 90% of them do exactly what we’re asking, they honor detainers. We want it to go back to what it used to be for the safety of everyone who lives in this state,” said Henry Lucero, a representative from ICE.
McFadden says in order for him to honor their detainer requests, ICE needs to get a criminal warrant from the federal government charging someone for being in the country illegally.
He says without that, he can’t hold people in jail if they meet their bond.
Sheriff McFadden says ICE provided those warrants twice just last week with inmates in the jail, who remained there as of Monday night. McFadden says that’s the only way ICE and Sheriff’s office can work together.
“For my cooperation, I’d love for you to do what you did last week. Bring me an arrest warrant like you did last week on two defendants here," said McFadden. "That’s the correct way to do it. Bring that, we will honor that because it’s signed by a judicial official and we can simply move on. We’re still pointing fingers back and forth. If we receive these, that’s the cooperation. We gave them what they needed, I gave them what they needed and we cooperate together.”
ICE officials say that 70 percent of arrests immigration enforcement agents make happen after criminal undocumented immigrants have been released into the public by local jails or state prisons.
Officials say that about 90 percent of people arrested by ICE agents during Fiscal Year 2019 either had a criminal conviction, a pending criminal charge, had illegally re-entered the United States after being previously removed from a federal felony, or were an immigration fugitive subject to a final order of removal.
In Charlotte, during Fiscal Year 2018, 473 criminal undocumented immigrants were transferred into ICE custody pursuant to an immigration detainer, according to ICE officials.
“In 2019, since the enactment of Mecklenburg’s non-cooperation policy these individuals are instead released into the community where they are free to re-offend until ICE is able to locate and arrest them, or until they commit additional preventable crimes in the community resulting in their arrest by other law enforcement,” according to ICE officials.
Mary Espinoza, community organizer for activist group Comunidad Colectiva CLT, a group fighting against ICE, sent WBTV this statement:
"Time and time again, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attempt to undermine North Carolina voters' decision to terminate the County’s voluntary partnerships with ICE for the well-being of all its residents. These attempts can only be seen as propaganda attempts to push an anti-immigrant agenda in the wake of a key presidential election.
"In 2018 Mecklenburg County residents overwhelmingly voted to terminate the County’s voluntary 12-year-old 287(g) agreement because they saw ICE as the rogue agency that it truly is; an agency with a long track record of civil and human rights violations. A recent example can be seen through the forced sterilizations of multiple women at the Irwin Detention Center, where North Carolina women are sent to.
“This is yet another attempt from the Trump administration and the Atlanta Field Office to use fear-mongering techniques to pressure counties who have democratically decided to terminate their county’s voluntary partnership with ICE. We cannot allow ICE to further terrorize and attack communities as they continue their authoritarian regime.”