ICE launches billboard campaign in Charlotte area aimed at sanctuary policies

Billboards highlight at-large offenders released by Mecklenburg sheriff

In this Oct. 22, 2018, photo U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surround and detain a person during a raid in Richmond, Va. ICE's enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they're doing largely the same job they did before the election, prioritizing criminals. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

CHARLOTTE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement has launched a billboard campaign along major Charlotte roadways to educate the public about the dangers of sanctuary and noncooperation policies.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) billboards appear to target Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, a Democrat, known for refusing to cooperate with ICE.

“Too often sanctuary policies limiting cooperation with ICE result in significant public safety concerns,” Tony H. Pham, senior official performing the duties of the director, said in a statement. “ICE will continue to enforce immigration laws set forth by Congress through the efforts of the men and women of ICE to remove criminal aliens and making our communities safer.”

As recently as February, McFadden stated in an interview on WBT Radio that he would not be changing his position and would continue to refuse to honor ICE detainer requests. In addition to McFadden, Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker and Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead have also made public statements about refusing to cooperate with ICE.

The billboards feature at-large immigration violators previously arrested or convicted of crimes in the U.S. who were released from the Mecklenburg County Jail instead of being transferred to ICE custody pursuant to an immigration detainer.

Profiles of some of the offenders on the billboards provided by ICE include:

Paul Chander Evans, 26, a Jamaican national illegally present in the U.S. Evans was arrested by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Oct. 6 for assault on a female, felony breaking and entering, communicating threats and other charges. ICE lodged a detainer with the Mecklenburg County Jail, but due to their sanctuary policies, detainers have not been honored, and the subject was released to the community.

Andres Bautista-Alcantara, 29, a Dominican national illegally present in the U.S. Bautista-Alcantara was arrested by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Sept. 9 for two counts of 2nd degree forcible rape and violation of a domestic violence protection order. ICE lodged a detainer with the Mecklenburg County Jail, but due to their sanctuary policies, detainers have not been honored, and the subject was released to the community.

Omar Palomo-Garcia, 25, a Mexican national illegally present in the U.S. Palomo-Garcia was arrested by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department March 28 for assault on a female, felony cocaine possession and drug paraphernalia. ICE lodged a detainer, with the Mecklenburg County Jail, but due to their sanctuary policies, detainers have not been honored, and the subject was released to the community.

The board campaign includes at least five billboards along major Charlotte roadways including I-85, I-277, I-485 and I-77. The public should call ICE at 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) if they have information to report about the whereabouts of an individual featured on one of the billboards.

Democrats 2019 Abolish Ice movement

Calls by national Democrats in 2019 to “Abolish ICE” with the focus of their opposition centering on 287(g) agreements between local law enforcement and ICE. Section 287(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act allows for the deputization of state and local law enforcement to enforce federal laws.

Democrats nationally have characterized detainers as unconstitutional or illegal but legal experts disagree, noting that state law and not federal law directs whether or not law enforcement should cooperate with ICE or not.

Sheriffs in Buncombe, Durham, Henderson, Forsyth, Mecklenburg and Wake counties have all terminated their 287(g) agreements with ICE.  

The General Assembly took action when 30 House Republicans, including N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain), co-sponsored House Bill 370. The bill required any county jail or detention center to hold an immigrant charged with a crime for 48 hours if requested by ICE. It also contained a provision for private citizens to take legal action against their county if they believe the law isn’t being properly enforced, and civil penalties could be assessed.

“If the law-abiding citizens of North Carolina are subject to enforcement of state and federal law, then illegal immigrants detained for committing crimes should be too,” Moore said in a press release on the bill.

The bill, which gained the support of the N.C. Sheriff’s Association, passed through both houses and was sent on Aug. 21 to Gov. Roy Cooper, who promptly vetoed it the following day. Just seven days before Cooper vetoed the bill, ICE had recaptured an illegal immigrant from Honduras who was released by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office despite rape and child sex offense charges. The man had already been previously deported and had illegally reentered the country.

“This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina,” Cooper said in his veto message. “As the former top law enforcement officer of our state, I know that current law allows the state to jail and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status.”

Cooper also called the bill “unconstitutional.”

“Despite Gov. Cooper’s attempt to distract folks with reckless rhetoric and name calling, the message this veto sends is abundantly clear: He is more concerned about protecting the ‘rights’ of people in this country illegally who are in jail for committing crimes than he is about protecting the safety of our communities and the citizens that live in them,” Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) said in response to Cooper’s veto.

President Donald Trump weighed in on Cooper’s veto, tweeting it was “a terrible decision” and the North Carolina Democrat “should reverse his decision and get back to the basics of fighting crime!”

McFadden pushed back, issuing a statement that said “most of the citizens in the county understand and agree” with his position and termination of the 287(g) program.

“The citizens elected me to the office of sheriff last year by an overwhelming majority and my stance on immigration issues has not waivered,” said McFadden in the statement which also blamed ICE for an “ineffective immigration system.”

McFadden also said ICE knew he has “the discretion to not honor a voluntary agreement” and “not honoring detainers is not refusing to enforce the law — detainers are requests for voluntary assistance.”

More Mecklenburg releases, more legislation proposals

Near the end of October, just two months after Cooper’s veto of House Bill 370, ICE released a list of violent criminal illegal immigrants currently in custody of the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Office. Several of the offenders had charges involving sex crimes or rape of a child. ICE warned that under McFadden’s current sanctuary policies, those individuals would be released back into the community.

After ICE’s announcement, North Carolina members of Congress stepped in by introducing two bills aimed at sheriffs who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials that seek assistance in detaining illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and face deportation.

Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) along with Reps. Dan Bishop (NC-9) and Ted Budd (NC-13) announced legislation to stop sanctuary policies by sheriffs in North Carolina.

“These are people who have removal orders issued against them,” Tillis said in a phone interview with North State Journal about the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act. “These are not people who are in jail for being illegally present. They’re in jail because they committed a crime after they violated our border laws.

“They’re illegally present, and then they committed a serious crime,” Tillis added. “This is not hypothetical. These are all cases in North Carolina alone where over 500 people have been released because we’re not cooperating with ICE.”

Tillis also criticized Cooper, calling him “a sanctuary governor.”