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Day Without Immigrants; Chief Putney On Arrests; Man Charged With Paper Carrier's Murder

Tom Bullock
Hundreds gathered at Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte Thursday for a pro-immigrant rally.

Immigrant communities nationwide and in Charlotte staged “A Day Without Immigrants” Thursday. They’re protesting a wave of recent arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the first major immigration crackdown by the new Trump administration.

At uptown Charlotte’s Marshall Park, several hundred people attended a demonstration. WFAE’s Nick de la Canal was there and offered this report at noon:

“I’m standing right on the perimeter of the crowd here in Marshall Park. There’s several hundred people that are gathered here right now, with signs. I don’t know if you can hear it, but there’s some Spanish music blaring in the background. There are a number of school-aged children here, which suggests that people did not follow the encouragement of CMS to send their children to school today. A school-age child just ran by me just now. 

“The group that’s organizing this protest, called Comunidad Collectiva, did send out a press release to members of the media just now.  They’re essentially demanding that Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the city government of Charlotte publicly fight back in support of immigrants. They’re calling for CMPD to go through training on racial profiling and just in general they’re asking City Council to stand up for immigrants.

More than 250 businesses in the Charlotte area are closed for the day, from neighborhood restaurants to the regional grocery chain Compare Foods. It’s all in response to President Trump’s executive order signed three weeks ago. That changed the Obama administration’s policy of focusing mainly on violent criminals and recent arrivals.

The topic came up on this morning’s “Charlotte Talks” on WFAE. Atenas Burrola is a lawyer and director of the Charlotte Latin American Coalition’s Immigrant Education Center. She said it expands the kind of people subject to arrest and deportation. 

“Almost anyone who is undocumented is now a priority and is now a target for ICE,” Burrola said.


Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney says his officers are not asking people about their immigration status. On WFAE’s Charlotte Talks this morning, he said neither federal nor state law requires local police to ask about that.  

“What we tell our people is it's not relevant to us unless you're committing a crime. If you're a victim of crime, we don't care about your immigration status then. What we care about is solving that crime and bringing the people who committed that crime to justice,” Putney said.

Putney says where immigration status does become a factor is with criminals. After CMPD arrests someone, they essentially hand that person off at a county jail, which is run by the Mecklenburg County sheriff. The sheriff's office does check immigration status because it takes part in a voluntary federal program called 287-G.

Putney says Charlotte is not a sanctuary city, and its officers are not forbidden from asking about immigration status. They're just taught to focus on crime and let ICE focus on federal immigration law.

You can hear more from Thursday's “Charlotte Talks,” including interviews with Charlotte Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney and immigration lawyers, at WFAE.org.


CMPD has charged a man with murder in the fatal shooting of a 65-year-old man delivering newspapers uptown early Wednesday. Twenty-two-year-old Roger Best was arrested following the shooting of Walter Scott. Scott was found dead near Romare Bearden Park around 2:30 a.m. Scott delivered newspapers in the uptown area for more than 40 years. Chief Kerr Putney said on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks this morning that police think robbery was the motive. Best also was shot and had flagged down police. He’ll be taken into custody after he’s released from the hospital.

WFAE reporters Michael Tomsic and Lisa Worf contributed to this report.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.