The current presidential administration has laid the foundations for a disruptive strategy to avoid criticism: demonize its detractors. Unfortunately, this strategy, which is typically used in electoral campaigns, can also be observed in certain federal agencies. Such is the case with the dispute between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the sheriffs who do not cooperate with them.
Let us briefly analyze the repeated criticisms that the immigration authorities have received, the response from the voters, and the federal agency’s new strategy to divert attention.
First, it is worth clarifying that no one wants to have criminals in their communities. We applaud the actions of ICE agents when they investigate, arrest, and deport dangerous criminals and gang members. That is their mission, and many officials do it with great courage. The problem is that some senior ICE officials feel pressured to increase the number of undocumented arrests. Given a lack of criminals, the agents end up targeting humble workers, basically because they are an easy target.
So far in fiscal year 2019, almost all deportation cases prosecuted by the Charlotte Immigration Court were against people who were not accused of a crime. Nationally, from to
In the Charlotte Immigration Court, which serves North Carolina, of 2,038 deportation proceedings carried out during that period, only 6 cases cite criminal activity. This is according to a report released on
Faced with this reality, last year voters in several of the state’s counties democratically elected sheriffs who are standing up to this injustice. That’s why the new sheriffs in counties such as Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, Guilford, and Buncombe, have refused to honor ICE detainer requests, which seek to keep an undocumented person in jail beyond the time indicated by law. The sheriffs clarify that they respect all inmate detention orders that are authorized by a judge.
The problem occurs when an undocumented person accused of a serious crime enters the county jail, and even though a detainer request is issued by ICE, he is released without the immigration agents being able to arrest him. About 20 cases of that nature have already occurred in Mecklenburg County. That is when ICE holds the sheriff accountable, and they accuse him of endangering the community.
What ICE does not mention in its press releases is that it is not the sheriff who wanted to release a prisoner; it is the courts that issue these orders, many times with bond. Nor does ICE mention that in their
targeted operations, they not only arrest those they were originally looking for. Along the way, there are
collateral arrests of humble workers, who do not represent a danger to anyone.
Many media outlets only publish ICE press releases that denounce the sheriffs, and so the criticisms of the agency have yet to be addressed. Sadly, because of this, the
collateral arrests will continue.