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Meck County Sheriff Defends Program To Screen, Detain Immigrants

Nick de la Canal/ WFAE

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff is defending his participation in a federal program that allows deputies to help enforce federal immigration law. The program, known as 287g, has become a sticking point in the sheriff’s upcoming bid for re-election.

Sheriff Irwin Carmichael, a Democrat, called a press conference on Tuesday, saying there had been misinformation swirling about the program. He did not say exactly what. The program allows deputies to screen and detain inmates based on their immigration status. Carmichael said the program is an invaluable resource to his office.

"The purpose of the 287g program is simple," Carmichael said, "It is a federal database that allows me to identify exactly who we have in our jail, and who is in the community. The knowledge is critical in protecting my staff and maintaining a safe work environment for the law enforcement inside our jail."

According to Immigration and Custom Enforcement, known as ICE, Mecklenburg County flagged roughly 1,300 inmates living in the country illegally last year. About 290 were deported.

Following the sheriff’s press conference, activists held a press conference of their own outside the sheriff’s office. They said the program undermines trust between law enforcement and immigrants, and tears immigrant families apart.

The groups attempted to deliver a two-page letter calling for the program’s demise to the sheriff, but were turned away by staff. More than 20 activist groups signed on, as did the sheriff’s two Democratic opponents in the upcoming May primary - Gary McFadden and Antoine Ensley.