Biden’s illegal immigration woes hit competitive congressional race

Migrants wait along a border wall Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, after crossing from Mexico near Yuma, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

RALEIGH — Illegal Immigration looks to be one of the hot-button issues in the upcoming midterm election cycle after federal officials reported that for the first time ever the number of illegal immigrants arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border is on pace to exceed 2 million. 

According to data compiled by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, 4.9 million illegal immigrants have crossed our border since Biden took office.  

Statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show crimes committed by illegal immigrants also surged under Biden in 2021, including a 1,900% increase in manslaughter and homicide convictions compared to 2020.  

But it isn’t just adults entering the country illegally. Some 257,110 minor children have been encountered at the nation’s borders, per data from CPB. In North Carolina, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security intends to settle potentially thousands of those illegal minors in an old school campus near Greensboro over a five-year period.  

A recent NPR/IPSOS poll showed the majority of Americans are “buying in” to the idea that unchecked illegal immigration on the nation’s southern border is “an invasion.” The poll revealed that close to “three-quarters (73%) of Americans believe the large number of migrants apprehended at the southern border is a problem, consistent with perceptions in September 2021 (72%).” 

In the race for North Carolina’s redrawn 13th Congressional District, Republican Bo Hines, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is facing Democrat Wiley Nickel, a state Sen. representing Wake County.  

Before redistricting, the 13th District had a +38 Republican lean, however, according to an analysis of the redrawn maps by the election data outfit FiveThirtyEight, and the new district has just a +3 Republican lean. 

The most recent polling data from July through August from Real Clear Politics shows Hines with a five-point lead over Nickel; 44% to 39%. A previous Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll published June had Hines up over Nickel by two. 

Both Hines and Nickel’s campaign websites tout “immigration reform” as a key issue.  

According to Hines’ immigration statement, “Our country is in dire need of immigration reform to ensure we have a sustainable immigration system that is concentrated on assimilating talented and hardworking individuals that have demonstrated they will abide by the law.” and “Illegal immigration hurts our society and penalizes immigrants who have followed the rules and entered our country legally.” 

In January, Hines’ campaign took aim at illegal immigration with a video ad on Facebook that said “Current immigration laws are not being enforced. So, it’s time to shut down our borders and fix our immigration system once and for all.” 

Nickel’s campaign website doesn’t mention illegal immigration, but instead focuses on “Skilled work-visa holders coming to the U.S.” who are “hitting an extreme backlog in visa processing.”  

Following his statements on visa backlogs, Nickel’s site says, “It’s time for comprehensive immigration reform. People who wish to come to our country seeking a better life deserve a pathway to visas or citizenship that doesn’t take decades to complete.” 

North State Journal reached out to both candidates for comment regarding their illegal immigration positions. Only the Hines campaign responded.  

“Illegal immigration is an important issue to North Carolinians because — when left unchecked — the flow of dangerous individuals and drugs directly impacts our communities,” Hines said in a statement to North State Journal. “We have people in our community dying of drug overdoses every day. We must address this crisis head on and that starts by securing our borders.” 

Hines’ senior campaign advisor Rob Burgess commented on Nickel’s record. 

“Wiley Nickel’s record speaks for itself when it comes to immigration. He has consistently voted against having North Carolina law enforcement work in conjunction with federal immigration authorities,” said Burgess in an email to North State Journal. “Wiley not only supports Biden’s disastrous immigration policy but plans to be a rubber stamp for anything Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi tell him to vote for. North Carolinians deserve better from their member of Congress.” 

In 2019, Nickel did vote against House Bill 370 that would have required confinement facilities to cooperate with ICE agents and other federal officials for proper detainment of illegal immigrants. It also would have authorized the removal of a sheriff for failing to comply with ICE detainers and for confinement facilities to submit annual reports on detainer compliance to the General Assembly. 

According to data from ICE, nearly 500 illegal immigrants with administrative detainers placed on them were released in North Carolina during the fiscal year 2019. 

The bill had the backing of the NC Sheriffs’ Association, which said the measure “provides an appropriate and careful balance under the Constitution for the rights of the accused and for the public safety of our communities.” 

Along with every House Democrat present for the vote, Nickel voted “no” on passing House Bill 370, but it was ratified anyway on Aug. 20, 2019.  

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill just a day later on Aug. 21, 2019. In his veto message, Cooper claimed “This law is only about scoring political points and using fear to divide North Carolinians.”  

North Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis criticized Cooper for the veto, stating “Gov. Cooper has effectively declared North Carolina a sanctuary state.”  

The bill’s passage followed reports of illegal immigrants who had been arrested and then released by certain sheriffs in Mecklenburg, Durham and Wake Counties. In particular, one case in Mecklenburg County was raised during committee debate of the bill by state Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell). 

Hall said, in part, “they’re releasing folks onto the streets that shouldn’t be released. They’re releasing some dangerous folks. We saw an example in Mecklenburg County just a few weeks ago.” 

Hall’s reference was likely about Honduran immigrant Luis Pineda-Ancheta who was released by Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden. 

Pineda-Ancheta had been deported but re-entered the country illegally and was arrested again in Mecklenburg County on charges of domestic abuse and assault of his girlfriend. 

Two days after his arrest, McFadden released Pineda-Ancheta despite a detainer request by ICE; a decision that was criticized by both ICE and the U.S. Attorney for Western North Carolina. 

Once released, Pineda-Ancheta kidnapped his girlfriend, tied a rope around her head, and drove into a wooded area while threatening to kill her. The woman escaped and a nine-hour-long standoff between Pineda-Ancheta and SWAT ensued. 

After the re-capture of Pineda-Ancheta, McFadden stood by his decision, stating he remained “steadfast and confident that not honoring ICE detainers is in the best interest of the people of Mecklenburg County.”

About A.P. Dillon 749 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_