CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The “new normal” is to expect more visible ICE presence in the community, ICE Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Gallagher said Friday, following 200 arrests across North Carolina.
Criminal offenders are being released back into the community, Gallagher says. The recent arrests include at least a dozen in Charlotte.
Sixty people arrested were “not a target” by ICE, but were at the “wrong place at the wrong time” and when identified by ICE agents, they were arrested.
Gallagher says 287(g) changes led to release of a person who they say, after being freed, committed an armed robbery in Mecklenburg County.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden’s office sent out a statement in response to the comments made by Gallagher that mentions the Sheriff deep commitment to keeping the community safe.
“If ICE is interested in addressing violent crimes committed by all citizens and not just those committed by immigrants, Sheriff McFadden would embrace the opportunity to work with ICE,” the statement reads.
McFadden spoke to WBTV in a phone interview Friday night and continued to voice his opposition to the 287(g) program.
“I think it’s a poorly designed program. If we look at it, it has poor designs in it. It doesn’t bring unity in our community. It doesn’t build trust," said the sheriff.
He said he thinks ICE is trying to scare community members with it’s recent presence in the community.
“It is creating intentional fear, deliberate to create panic in the community," said McFadden.
ICE says they make around 50 arrests per week in the area and that the recent uptick is a result of new sheriff’s office policies that are “dangerous.”
“The statistics are very clear,” ICE says. “Mecklenburg County’s program has been a successful program,” Gallagher said of 287g. He says they have identified “plenty of very violent criminals” through the program.
“I don’t want to suggest that all immigrants are criminals - that’s certainly not the case,” Gallagher said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they refuse to participate in ICE immigration enforcement operations.
“Our country’s immigration discussion is an emotional subject for many,” CMPD said. "CMPD enforces state and local laws. ICE enforces federal immigration laws, police said in a statement hoping to clear up any “confusion.”
“CMPD policy mandates that officers are required to treat everyone with whom they have contact with equally and without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, citizenship, sexual orientation or any other arbitrary stereotype,” the CMPD release said.
A rumor causing chilling impact in the community is that ICE sets up road blocks to catch and detain people.
“I think the sheriff’s office would be shocked at the individuals we’re releasing back into the community,” ICE said, explaining that 91-percent of those arrested were either criminally convicted or charged with a crime.
“Rape, sex offenses, they released a murderer,” Gallagher said of those arrested. “We will continue to be out there protecting the citizens of these counties.”
WBTV has reached out to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office for a statement.
A group of people formed outside of the press conference to protest Friday morning.
Those who wish to check if someone is in custody or to see where they are, are asked to call the ICE Information line and provide the person’s name: 1-888-351-4024.
The line is bilingual and staffed by live operators from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.