Back in May of 2014, the citizens of Mecklenburg County elected Sheriff Irwin Carmichael, a hardline conservative who, in cooperation with the Trump administration, is working to “do something” about the immigration issue here in Charlotte. Sheriff Carmichael ran his elections as a Democrat, but his views on immigration and gun rights align more with conservatives. He is known to be the “last conservative democrat in Charlotte”. According to the Charlotte Observer, “Carmichael has repeatedly defended the 287(g) program, which provides access to a federal database where jail officials can check the immigration status for anyone arrested in Mecklenburg County, whether they’re charged with a traffic violation or a violent crime.” Carmichael said that the intent of the program is “to make sure we’re taking felons and gang members, who are violent, out of play.”
The 287(g) program is functioning on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE was established in 2003 by the Bush administration; its purpose is to enforce immigration laws within the United States and to investigate criminal and terrorist activity of foreign nationals residing in the United States. According to ICE, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the program led to nearly 300 deportations in the fiscal year of 2017 alone and 15,000 deportations altogether since 2006. The controversy behind it is that deportations occur while suspects are still in the state of arrest, not after they are convicted. Many people believe that this is unconstitutional and that it violates the fourth amendment, but unfortunately, in this situation, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Once a suspect is arrested for a crime, a background check must be done regardless of the reason for the arrest.
During the election this year in May of 2018, Sheriff Carmichael was the only candidate to support the 287(g) program in contrast to his two other opponents, Garry McFadden and Antoine Ensley. McFadden and Ensley, along with other opponents of the 287(g) program, believe that even though ICE and the Charlotte Mecklenburg County Police Department are allowed to do this, their actions strip them of their ethics and moral values and of respecting one’s privacy and natural rights, especially if the suspect is not convicted, which in many deportation cases is not yet known. Others even believe that this is a target to the Latino community that resides in East Charlotte. It influences institutional racism. Like Carmichael said, the intent of the program is “to make sure we’re taking felons and gang members, who are violent, out of play.” This program can disproportionately impact Latino Immigrants just because of the way they look. The Migration Policy Institute found that “the 287(g) program can be a tool for localities pursuing anti-immigrant agendas. Sheriffs, who are generally elected officials, can use the program to meet political goals and respond to community pressure to “crack down” on immigration. For example, Sheriffs in Alamance County, North Carolina have been caught setting up checkpoints in majority Latino neighborhoods. An investigation done by the United States Department of Justice has found that Latino drivers were ten times more likely to be pulled over for traffic violations than Non-Latino drivers in these checkpoints. Throughout history, we have found different ways to commit racial profiling and promote institutional racism. Even now in 2018, the judicial system we know would not expect the White Man to be an illegal immigrant when juxtaposed to a Hispanic man, and because of our stereotypical judgments, we may never check the background of this White Man and never find out that he illegally crossed the border of Canada to come to the United States.
Sheriff Irwin Carmichael’s incumbency had witnessed a great defeat this year. Mecklenburg County’s new sheriff is Garry McFadden, the Former Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Homicide Detective. According to Charlotte’s NPR Source WFAE 90.7, “McFadden won about fifty-two percent of the vote” As mentioned before, he plans to repeal the 287(g) program here in Charlotte Mecklenburg County. And because of the controversy behind it, he states “I want to change the city to bring unity. I want to change the city to bring inclusiveness. And we’re going to have to talk about race.”
Editor’s Note: When this story was originally published, an error was made regarding the time Sheriff Irwin Carmichael was Sheriff of Mecklenburg County and when this program was supported. Since this error has been pointed out, the appropriate corrections have been made about the time this happened and who is currently Sheriff. We apologize for the error.