CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden on Tuesday blasted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over its new Charlotte billboard campaign that depicts local “immigration violators” who were freed from jail.
The federal agency announced the billboard campaign in a news release Friday night, in which ICE blamed local “sanctuary policies” for the men’s release.
“Too often sanctuary policies limiting cooperation with ICE result in significant public safety concerns because they release dangerous individuals back into the community we are attempting to protect,” ICE official Tony Pham said in the release.
ICE said the local suspects and offenders “at-large” and “dangerous.”
Although ICE didn’t name the sheriff, McFadden on Tuesday accused the agency of spreading misinformation about his role as sheriff “in an effort to undermine my authority.”
“I do not employ ‘sanctuary policies’ as ICE’s website suggests,” McFadden said in a statement. “Rather, I employ public safety policies that I believe are in the best interest of everyone in Mecklenburg County based upon my decades of experience in law enforcement.”
McFadden said his officers don’t release suspects from custody. A judge or magistrate orders their release based on the person meeting specific “terms and conditions,” including payment of a bond, the sheriff said.
“I abide by that court order as I am required to do so by law and by my oath of office,” McFadden said.
The sheriff, however, said he is not required to honor ICE detainer requests, nor will he. “I do not believe it is in the best interest of the community for the local sheriff to do ICE’s job for them,” McFadden said.
An ICE spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to the sheriff, it’s important for local law enforcement “to have a more productive, cooperative and trustworthy relationship with everyone who lives in Mecklenburg County, so that victims of and witnesses to crime can feel encouraged to come forward without fear of repercussion, including the potential of deportation.”
‘PUBLIC SAFETY THREATS’
ICE called the men pictured on its Charlotte billboards “public safety threats,” which McFadden said was based on charges still unproven in court.
“One individual is charged with second-degree rape and violating a domestic violence protective order,” McFadden said. "Those are very, very serious charges. Shouldn’t he be brought to justice? Shouldn’t he be allowed to confront his accusers? Shouldn’t his victims have their day in court?
“Shouldn’t our criminal justice system be allowed to show the community that it works? ICE doesn’t think so.”
Instead, according to the sheriff, “ICE would just deport this defendant as soon as he makes bond — sweeping him under the rug (or back to his home country). Where is the justice for those victims?”
Another man pictured on the ICE billboards appears to have been convicted of illegally entering the United States in 2012, according to the sheriff.
“If that’s the case, ICE should be able to prosecute him for the federal felony of illegally re-entering the United States — a charge that would bring with it a criminal arrest warrant and no bond, requiring that he be held in custody presumably until he is deported again.”
McFadden said he’s asked ICE officials why they don’t charge such suspects with illegal re-entry and was told the agency is "too busy, that it’s too much work, or that the U.S. Attorney’s Office cannot process those charges quickly enough.
“These individuals are so dangerous that ICE feels compelled to put them on billboards because of the public threat ICE says they pose, yet ICE can’t figure out how to get obvious charges on them that would hold them in custody?” McFadden asked.
“And then they point Uncle Sam’s finger at me for not exercising my discretion and doing their job for them? Isn’t that more than a little hypocritical? Or disingenuous?”