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‘Undocubus’ immigrants released from jail; feds take no steps to deport them

By Ely Portillo and Gary L. Wright
elyportillo@charlotteobserver.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Ten undocumented immigrants who were arrested in a Charlotte protest Tuesday have been released from jail, and none have been referred for deportation, federal authorities say.

“ICE has taken no enforcement action against the Ride for Justice activists arrested Tuesday in Charlotte,” said Vincent Picard, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States.”

The activists are part of the “Undocubus,” a group of about 50 undocumented immigrants traveling from Phoenix to Charlotte in an aging tour bus to argue for immigration reform during the Democratic National Convention.

The 10 were arrested Tuesday afternoon after sitting down in an uptown intersection and refusing police orders to disperse. They face misdemeanor impeding traffic charges.

Although President Obama recently stayed deportations for many young immigrants in the country illegally, the recent federal exemption doesn’t apply to all, and those over 30 are not covered.

In recent months, undocumented youth have become more aggressive in raising awareness to their status, with some staging protests that get them arrested. They think that helped push Obama to issue the deportation stay.

Undocumented immigrants in Mecklenburg County stand a greater risk of deportation than those in some other counties. That’s because the county participates in the federal 287 (g) program, which screens all arrestees for immigration status.

The arrested activists, who range in age from 21 to 58, said they’ll soon return to their home cities – mostly Chicago and Phoenix – and continue organizing.

“The full plan is to tell President Obama we have no papers and no fear,” said Julio Sanchez, 24, who was among those arrested Tuesday. He has been in the U.S. for nine years and now lives in Chicago.

Soon after the 10 were released, an Undocubus organizer sent a text message to an Observer editor: “Todos Libres! All are free,” it said.

Staff Writers Ames Alexander and Doug Miller contributed.

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