Correction: Neither Sheriff Burke nor Durham County have participated in 287G.
Correction made February 21, 2019
A decision made my North Carolina lawmakers has sparked controversy this week as prison inmates are being released from prisons across the state, resulting in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arresting more than 200 undocumented immigrants between Monday and Thursday of last week.
The 287(g) program requires local authorities to check a federal database to determine if any inmates are in the country illegally. If they are, inmates are held until ICE can begin the deportation process. Last year, nearly 1,200 people were arrested and detained in Mecklenburg county alone.
Of the 200 individuals arrested this week, 25 percent have criminal convictions, 20 percent have pending cases and another 25 percent have evaded deportation orders, according to the News and Records.
In December, newly elected sheriffs in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, some of North Carolina’s most populous counties reversed the 287(g) program and began releasing detained, undocumented inmates. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker continue to defend their decision not to honor the program any longer.
In a press release this week, McFadden stated that, “to suggest that dangerous people are suddenly walking out of jail because of the termination of the 287(g) policy is engaging in cynical fear mongering.”
In 2007, Wake County first began abiding by the ICE program under Republican Sheriff Donnie Harrison, who announced that the sheriff’s office processed 10,883 people through the program in Wake County between 2013 and 2017, of which 1,483 were eventually deported.
After the populous counties cut ties with ICE, the agency has sent officers out into the field in targeted raids to compensate for their loss to the records in most jails in the state. Charlotte City Council Member Braxton Winston concluded that the raids are not expected to end anytime soon. One ICE official told Winston that the raids should be expected to be the “new normal” until local officials agree to cooperate with the 287(g) program and the Department of Homeland Security once again.
ICE officials argue that they have no other option, but to raid, because the county’s sheriffs are putting the public at danger by releasing dangerous criminals back into the public.
“This is the direct conclusion of dangerous policies of not cooperating with ICE,” said Sean Gallagher, who oversees the agency’s operation in the Carolinas and Georgia. “This forces my officers to go out onto the street and conduct more enforcement.”