Charlotte Immigrant March Planned For Monday

Feb 13, 2019

Charlotte activists have planned a "Day Without Immigrants" march for Monday to support the city's immigrant population and oppose U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In statewide raids last week, ICE arrested about 200 people it says are in the country illegally. 

The number was about four times what the agency typically arrests in a given week.

"Our community was attacked this past week," Stefania Arteaga, with the activist group Comunidad Colectiva, said at a Wednesday news conference. "We cannot allow these escalations to continue. We need policies in place, we need local [elected officials] to speak up and speak clearly about what's going on ... because immigrants are constituents."

The march is scheduled to begin at noon on Monday at Marshall Park, which is located across from Charlotte's Government Center.

In 2017, activists mounted two similar "Day Without Immigrants" marches. The first march drew several thousand to uptown Charlotte, the second about 250.

[Related Content: How Charlotte's Latino Groups Are Organizing Against ICE]

ICE Crackdown Prompting Activist Pushback

The planned march comes as activist groups have scrambled to respond to a statewide crackdown by immigration enforcement.

Sean Gallagher, field director for ICE's Atlanta Office, said the majority of those arrested last week had criminal charges or convictions, and 60 of those arrested — about a third — were not targeted, but were in the "wrong place at the wrong time." Additionally, ICE agents made 25 arrests at an gun-manufacturing plant last Tuesday in Sanford.

Jose Hernandez-Paris (center) speaks at an advocacy workshop at Charlotte's Latin American Coalition on Saturday. Hernandez-Paris is the coalition's executive director.
Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE

In response, groups like Comunidad Colectiva have forcefully condemned ICE, accusing the agency of racial profiling and spreading fear through the local immigrant community. The activist group has created a hotline (980-533-5721) for people to report ICE activity in Charlotte, and have been using tips from the hotline to broadcast reported ICE activity on their social media and through text alerts.

Other groups like Charlotte's Latin American Coalition have launched initiatives to help connect affected families to legal and material aid. Two advocacy groups in Durham and Siler City have launched a legal defense fund for immigrants detained by ICE.

City Officials Condemn ICE Arrests

At a news conference last Friday, ICE officials said they sent agents to people's homes and businesses because they had been barred from accessing county jails in Mecklenburg, Wake, and other counties that have ended participation in the 287(g) program in recent months. Forsyth County has also said it plans to end its participation in 287(g). As a result, Gallagher said, such raids are the "new normal."

Under the program, sheriff's offices gave ICE agents access to immigrants brought into the jail and found to be living in the country illegally. Often, ICE would take those immigrants into custody and initiate deportation proceedings.

[Related Content: How Sheriff's Office Deals With ICE Post-287(g)]

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden released a statement following Friday's news conference saying his office is "deeply committed to keeping the community safe and is committed to providing ICE access to the Mecklenburg County jail."

"If ICE is interested in addressing violent crimes committed by all citizens and not just those committed by immigrants, Sheriff McFadden would embrace the opportunity to work with ICE to address violence at all levels in our community," the statement read.

An ICE spokesperson disputed the statement saying since December, ICE agents have not been able to access the jail. 

Other city officials released statements on Twitter condemning the ICE arrests, including city councilmembers Julie Eiselt and Braxton Winston.

Mayor Vi Lyles also released a statement on her Twitter saying, "My vision for Charlotte is a city that is welcoming. Over 40,000 immigrants are members of our community and I'm proud that Charlotte has become a place they can call home."

In follow-up tweets, the mayor said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department does not participate in ICE enforcement options.

"Our policies state that CMPD officers are under no requirement to gather information regarding a person's citizenship or immigration status or share such information with the federal government," the tweets read. "CMPD is not authorized to direct ICE operations."