A week after community activists accused Charlotte leaders of ignoring concerns of immigrants, Mayor Jennifer Roberts has issued a statement saying she is “concerned” about a series of federal arrests involving of immigrants living illegally in the city.
Roberts’ stopped short of condemning the arrests, but suggests U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not been giving “accurate” and “timely” information to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police about their activities. And she asks that ICE refrain from making arrests “near” houses of worship and schools.
She did not specify an acceptable distance in the statement, which was released in an email and posted on Facebook.
ICE currently has a policy against arresting undocumented immigrants at schools, churches, hospitals and protests. To date, no one in the city has supplied proof the agency has violated that policy.
“I believe that no one should be deported for merely having a broken tail light,” Roberts said in the statement, alluding to rumors ICE agents were arresting undocumented immigrants for insignificant offenses.
“I’m concerned by the recent actions of agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency that have brought fear and chaos to our families and our Charlotte community…From our federal authorities, I request assistance in keeping our community safe. Our community is less safe for everyone when immigrants are afraid to report crimes or testify as witnesses to crimes.”
An ICE spokesman declined Tuesday to comment on Roberts’ statement, noting data released by the agency Monday explained the nature of the arrests, including the fact that those taken into custody have a criminal background and some had been previously deported.
It remains unclear exactly how many people ICE has arrested in the city in the past week, but ICE said Monday that it had arrested nearly 100 people in both Carolinas. Immigrant advocates believe as many as 21 people have been arrested in Charlotte. ICE has declined to contradict that number.
None of those arrested were put into deportation proceedings over a cracked tail light, officials say. In fact, those arrested in the Carolinas were “immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens,” a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement release states.
Among those picked up in the Charlotte-area was an immigrant convicted on three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child, the release states. That person had previously been removed to Mexico before re-crossing the border.
Rumors and social media posts have suggested for days the ICE arrests were indiscriminate, including road blocks and raids in immigrant neighborhoods, which ICE has denied.
Charlotte immigrant activists held a press conference Friday and accused city and county officials of being silent as rumors swirled of the ICE arrests. The activists threatened to take out their frustration out during upcoming elections. Mecklenburg County has 30,000 Latinos who are qualified to vote, activists say.
Many of the rumors have proven false, including a belief among advocates that CMPD was supplying ICE agents with warrants needed to conduct roadblocks. Immigrant advocates later admitted that was unfounded.
In her statement, Roberts notes that CMPD does not enforce federal immigration laws or profile community members based on their immigration status. “Our CMPD officers will work with federal authorities and with our immigrant and refugee community to solve crimes and keep violent criminals out of our communities.”
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