According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), roughly 500 illegal immigrants have been set free from jails across North Carolina since October 2018 even though federal detainers had been issued against them.
As WBTV explains, "A detainer is an administrative request from the federal government to a local law enforcement agency to hold someone in jail even after they are eligible for release on their state charge. A detainer is often used by ICE to keep undocumented immigrants in jail because removal from the country is a civil action and not a criminal matter." WBTV noted, "According to the new ICE data obtained by WBTV, the nearly 500 undocumented immigrants who have been released in FY19 despite a federal detainer include people charged with sex offenses, kidnapping, arson and homicide."
The Charlotte Observer reported in December 2018, on his first day on the job, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden ended the county's 287(g) program. ICE noted, "This section of law authorizes the Director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, that permit designated officers to perform limited immigration law enforcement functions."
ICE Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Gallagher issued a statement to the Charlotte Observer condemning McFadden's withdrawal of the program, asserting that it "will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests instead of arrests at the jail where enforcement is safer for everyone involved … . In Fiscal Year 2018 the Mecklenburg County 287(g) 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." ICE pointed out that it had "has 287(g) agreements with 78 law enforcement agencies in 20 states."
After McFadden withdrew from 287 (g), other North Carolina sheriffs started following suit; in December 2018, The Washington Times reported, "News outlets report that Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker and Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead announced their respective policy changes Friday. Wake County joins Mecklenburg County in pulling out of the federal 287(g) program … . Durham County hasn't participated in 287(g), and it will no longer honor ICE detainers, which are used to hold suspects up to an additional 48 hours."
A senior ICE official told WBTV:
The level of criminal aliens intentionally released into Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties is alarming, but even worse is that the true extent of this dangerous trend may never be fully realized … . If an illegal alien is arrested for a crime and is then released by local law enforcement without ever alerting ICE officials, a lifted detainer will never be registered in our systems and the alien may only come to our attention once it's too late. The reality is that when they obstruct federal law enforcement's mission of upholding our nation's laws and keeping American's safe, the people who lose most are those they're supposed to put first.
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) added:
North Carolina counties are releasing illegal immigrants charged with violent crimes like rape and murder without even notifying federal officials, jeopardizing public safety. This is why Congress needs to pass legislation I introduced to protect North Carolinians from dangerous criminals and to hold sanctuary counties responsible for refusing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.