Posted on August 12, 2019

Some North Carolina Sheriffs Refuse to Comply with ICE. Republicans Have a Plan to Thwart Them.

Jacob Rosenberg, Mother Jones, August 8, 2019

On the day his office stopped complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, newly elected Sheriff Garry McFadden of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, invited immigrant activists to his offices to celebrate. Grinning, he cut into a white sheet cake that featured “287(g)” in black print at its center, slashed through with red icing, to symbolize an end to the department’s participation in the voluntary provision that allows ICE to ask sheriffs to hold undocumented immigrants after they’ve been arrested by the department.

“We just don’t do that work anymore,” McFadden said.

But soon, he may have to cooperate with ICE officials. In the months since he celebrated his election, McFadden has been fighting a public battle with the federal agency after an undocumented immigrant committed a high-profile crime, and state Republicans have jumped in to use the controversy as a campaign issue.


In the 2018 election, black sheriffs were elected in North Carolina’s seven largest counties. McFadden was among them. The new sheriffs knocked off two 16-year incumbents, one of whom held the position for nearly 25 years, “largely because they objected to hardline immigration policies,” experts told the News & Observer. For the sheriffs, who manage their local jails, that meant ignoring requests from ICE to detain previously arrested undocumented immigrants so the agency could deport them. Such requests are made through a federal provision, 287(g), which allows ICE to work voluntarily with local authorities. At a press conference in Charlotte earlier this summer, McFadden, who has been one of the most outspoken of the new sheriffs, told reporters that the provision was “off the table.”

“You bring me a federal warrant,” he declared.

McFadden has a way of using the spotlight to his advantage. He is a sharp dresser — suits, cufflinks, the occasional bow tie — and he is at ease in front of the camera. For two seasons, he starred in I Am Homicide, a show on Investigation Discovery in which McFadden, a 30-year veteran of the Charlotte Police Department, explained murder cases he’d solved. “Do I push the envelope?” McFadden asks in the series intro. “I tear the envelope.” On his Twitter page, in the style of celebrities, he documents a joyous life with the occasional aside that “critics” only motivate him.

McFadden’s press conference was in defense of his policy not to comply with ICE voluntarily. A few days earlier, ICE had publicly criticized McFadden for the release of Luis Pineda-Ancheta, who they asked McFadden to hold in jail until they could arrest him. Pineda-Ancheta, who was arrested by Charlotte police for attacking a woman, was released in May; upon his release, he attempted to kidnap the same woman. (She got away because he tripped.) After a nine-hour SWAT raid, Pineda-Ancheta was arrested again. He met a $65,000 bond and was released once more. ICE finally arrested him in early June and chastised McFadden in a press release for “refus[ing] to honor an ICE detainer, nor even notify ICE…and instead releas[ing] an unlawfully present foreign national facing serious criminal charges onto the streets of Charlotte.”

Soon after, Republicans announced HB 370 after what they called a “public outcry” over the “ongoing controversy” involving McFadden and the other sheriffs. “These sanctuary sheriffs are simply putting partisan politics ahead of public safety,” said Rep. Hall. {snip}


At first, the NC Sheriff’s Association opposed the measure because it felt that early versions of the bill curtailed the independence of sheriffs through special provisions like allowing ICE full access to jails. The organization ultimately opted to work with leaders in the North Carolina legislature on the bill — overall, Caldwell said the association supports the idea of ICE compliance via court order because it would protect sheriffs. Instead of deputizing sheriffs as potential ICE agents under 287(g), HB 370 would require they comply with ICE by a local court order.

Now, “that court order is what the sheriff will be honor[ing]; the sheriff will not be honoring the ICE detainer,” he said. It’s a bureaucratic workaround to require ICE compliance by sheriffs: You can refuse to comply with an ICE detainer. You cannot refuse to comply with a court order.

In Raleigh, McFadden spoke out against the measure. “The House bill clearly is about attacking a select group of sheriffs who now have been carefully identified by using code words such as ‘urban sheriffs,’ ‘sanctuary sheriffs,’ and the one that I heard in this House that was more disturbing than anything else: the ‘super minority-majority sheriffs,’” he said at a press conference.

He was backed by other newly elected sheriffs. {snip} “This reminds me of the Jim Crow period I came up with when I was a kid,” said Al Whitesides, the only black member of the board. “Heaven forbid we go back there.”