DA Candidates Discuss Illegal Immigration, 287g Enforcement
This week, WFAE's election coverage focuses on the race for Mecklenburg County district attorney. Peter Gilchrist is stepping down after 36 years in office. Democrat Michael Barnes and Republican Andrew Murray are campaigning to replace him. WFAE will profile that race tomorrow. This is a portion of their debate last week at the Charlotte School of Law. One of the issues they addressed was illegal immigration and enforcement of the controversial 287g program. The program allows local law enforcement officers to begin deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants arrested on other charges. Here's a transcript from that portion of the dabate. Andrew Murray: Narcotics enforcement is prosecuting cases, the defendant, the defendant, the defendant. 287g is not something that the prosecutor gets involved in. That's for the top cop. That's for law enforcement to determine whether somebody has violated the law, whether it be federal or state, and to arrest those individuals, that's not for the prosecutor to decide. My job, and my assistant DA's job, will be the defendant, the defendant, the defendant, not race, not origin, not religion, the defendant. Did that defendant commit a crime? And we take that time, and we take it to the prosecution. Then, immigration can do what they want, the Feds can do what they want. Defendant, defendant, defendant. So, not my job. My job is to put those that are repeat offenders, those habitual offenders, those who commit violent crimes behind bars, those other low levels, to decide how best to handle them, but not to look at anything other than the factors of a case. Michael Barnes: It is critical that we know who is in this country. It is critical that we know whether people are in this country illegally. The 287g program is administered in this county by the Sheriff's Department. It is my position that anything that I can do to help address the issue of illegal immigration I will do. Now currently, obviously, it is a federal area, the sheriff's department sends them to ICE, the Feds take over the findings. I get that. But we have a situation where a lot of the crime in this community is being committed by illegal immigrants. And we need to make sure we are working with the sheriff's department and law enforcement to hold those folks accountable, and whatever Immigration (ICE) decides to do it will do. My job is to take that person whether he's here legally or illegally, but particularly in this case an illegal person, prosecute them doing what they do, hold them accountable, and then let be sent to wherever they will be sent. The fact of the matter is we spend a lot of time and a lot of money dealing with illegal immigrants. And we want to be fair to everybody, but we want to hold everybody accountable for their status and hold those accountable for what they do while they're in this country. And to act as if illegal immigration is something that I won't have anything to do is not the case. I won't have a lot of authority over it directly as I indicated, but in terms of wanting and desiring and partnering to see something done about it, I will.