Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents were seen pulling over, questioning, and arresting numerous drivers around Charlotte Wednesday in what appeared to be a citywide crackdown that has alarmed and stoked fears among the city's immigrants.
Comunidad Colectiva, an immigrant advocacy group in Charlotte, estimated at least 12 people had been taken into custody since Wednesday morning. Las Noticias, a Spanish-language newspaper in Charlotte, placed the number around 10.
Stefania Arteaga, an activist with Comunidad Colectiva, witnessed three of the ICE encounters, which she livestreamed on the activist group's Facebook page. She said the ICE agents were driving unmarked vehicles equipped with flashing blue lights and out-of-state license plates. She said agents pulled over vehicles as if they were conducting traffic stops, then questioned the drivers and in some cases took them into custody.
Arteaga said she was aware of arrests made near Sharon Amity Road and Milton Road, Central Avenue and Eastway Drive, and the 7500 block of Old Statesville Road. She said she had also heard reports of ICE activity near Nations Ford Road, Arrowood Road, W.T. Harris Boulevard, and South Boulevard. On social media, ICE agents were also seen near a CVS on Kilborne Drive.
Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, wrote in a statement that ICE conducts immigration arrests every day as part of its mission to enforce federal law and that the presence of ICE officers in Charlotte is "nothing new."
Cox was unable to immediately confirm the number of people taken into custody Wednesday. He said about 15,200 people were arrested in Fiscal Year 2018 by ICE's Atlanta office, which oversees Georgia and the Carolinas.
ICE arrests were also reported elsewhere in North Carolina Wednesday, including in Burlington, N.C., where at least three men were taken into custody by ICE agents stationed at the entrance to the men's neighborhood, according to Que Pasa, a local Spanish-language newspaper.
El Pueblo, a Raleigh-based immigrant advocacy group, issued a statement Wednesday saying arrests had also been made in Wake County.
The statewide arrests came a day after ICE agents raided a gun manufacturing plant in Sanford, N.C., arresting 27 workers there. The Lee County Sheriff's Office, which assisted in the raid, said the arrests were the result of an ongoing investigation into identity theft and fraud.
Some locally-elected Democrats responded to the arrests Wednesday. North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams wrote on Twitter that her office was in contact with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security.
Braxton Winston, a Charlotte city councilmember, issued a statement on Twitter condemning the arrests, saying they "target the people that live in the margins of our communities," and "erode the fragile trust between too many groups of citizens and our (government)."