ICE blasts Mecklenburg sheriff for ending controversial jail immigration program

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden’s decision to end a jail immigration program “is an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses,” an official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday night.

The end of the program will lead to a more visible ICE presence in the community, said ICE Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Gallagher in a statement emailed to the Observer Thursday by spokesman Bryan Cox.

McFadden notified ICE on Wednesday that he was ending the county’s 287(g) program that “has sent more than 15,000 people into deportation proceedings since 2006,” The Charlotte Observer reported. McFadden, a former longtime Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department detective, ended the program on his first full day as sheriff.

McFadden said ending the program in part “means people in immigrant communities will be more willing to report crime,” according to the Observer’s article.

The new sheriff’s decision “to restrict cooperation with ICE serves as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that Mecklenburg County is now a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities,” Gallagher said in his statement.

“In Fiscal Year 2018 the Mecklenburg County 287g program encountered 1,185 criminal aliens; yesterday’s decision to end this law enforcement agreement leaves them to reoffend against the people of Mecklenburg County,” Gallagher’s statement continued.

McFadden did not immediately reply Thursday night to a text message from the Observer; his phone’s voice mailbox was full and was not accepting messages. Tonya Rivens, McFadden’s public information officer, did not immediately reply to a phone message from the Observer.

Gallagher’s statement also said that “despite the challenges (McFadden’s) decision creates, ICE remains committed to enforcing federal law, and this decision does not mean immigration enforcement will decrease in Mecklenburg County. In fact, residents should expect a more visible ICE presence in Charlotte, as ICE will now have no choice but to conduct more at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites.”

That “will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests instead of arrests at the jail where enforcement is safer for everyone involved,” Gallagher’s statement ended.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak