Believing “immigration status should not affect our rights,” a group of immigrant advocates released a list of demands for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County officials on Wednesday, most of which call for protecting and giving benefits to people in the country illegally.
Among the demands: ending all Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police motor-vehicle checkpoints and decriminalizing “minor” offenses such as driving under the influence of alcohol.
The list was created by the Southeast Asian Coalition, Comunidad Colectiva and Alerta Migratoria, all of which are pushing city and county leaders to defy laws that call for the arrest and deportation of people who are in the country illegally. In Mecklenburg County, experts estimate that could be as many as 54,000 people.
While the list mostly deals with issues facing undocumented immigrants, the groups say they are also advocating for “black and brown people in Charlotte-Mecklenburg (who) are constantly policed and criminalized by members of law enforcement.”
“You have heard our demands several times and continue to tell us that you do not have the power to act,” say the groups in an open letter to city and county leaders.
“We know you are able to do more than you say. … Do not let the federal and state government take away your autonomy as city and county leaders. Cities and counties across the country and in North Carolina have already taken steps to protect their immigrant, refugee, and undocumented communities. Be righteous and do the same.”
The demands come as the three groups are organizing a May 1 rally at Marshall Park that hopes to draw the same participation as the Day Without An Immigrant protest in February. That march drew 7,000-8,000 immigrants and their allies, shutting down portions of Tryon and Trade streets at midday.
Organizers of the May 1 rally are again calling for Charlotteans to stay home from work and school, keep their businesses closed and avoid shopping for the day.
Among the demands released by the groups Wednesday:
- End Mecklenburg County’s participation in the federal 287(g) program. Under that program, all prisoners taken to the county jail are asked about their citizenship. Those who cannot show U.S. citizenship are referred to the 287(g) program for further study by federal agents. (ICE says 100 people were deported in 2016 through Mecklenburg County’s participation in the program.)
- Protect the access of undocumented immigrants to city benefits and services.
- Delete citizenship status questions from all applications, questionnaires and forms used in relation to the city. Prohibit city agencies and employees from requesting information or investigating a person’s citizenship or immigration status.
- End all CMPD motor vehicle checkpoints.
- Cut CMPD funding and “reinvest” the money in housing, health and education programs.
- Decriminalize or create alternative forms of accountability for: crimes of survival, such as theft and sex work; offenses that take place in public schools or other public educational facilities; and “minor” traffic offenses such as DUIs, not having an operators license and driving with a revoked license. (Undocumented immigrants are not allowed to get a North Carolina driver’s license, making it a key issue among advocates.)
- Provide money for immigrants in need of legal representation and create an office within the city to provide legal services to immigrants and refugees
Below is the open letter to local leaders
To the Mayor, City Council of Charlotte, CMPD Police chief, City Manager, and City attorney, Mecklenburg County Commissioners, and the Sheriff:
We are members of your community and we are your constituents. We are here to demand from you protection and safety for our communities.
We have demanded from you again and again to put measures in place that protect our people. We cannot wait any longer. The longer you wait to act, the more time ICE and the cooperating Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) and Sheriffs have to pick up more members of our families. You can no longer ignore that this is happening. We have seen checkpoints on Sharon Amity and Central Avenue, parts of our city that have high refugee & immigrant populations. We have seen a Southeast Asian father with no order of removal spend a week in an ICE detention. We have seen a soon-to-be father get arrested by ICE immediately after an immigration hearing.
As city and county leaders, how can you sit idly by while the lives & families of people in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are being destroyed? This fear is what people of color in Charlotte-Mecklenburg face everyday. Black and brown people in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are constantly policed and criminalized by members of law enforcement.
And now, on top of the fear of being arrested or facing police brutality, we also have to deal with the fear of our families being separated. You have heard our demands several times and continue to tell us that you do not have the power to act. We know you are able to do more than you say, below is a list of changes that we know you will be able to enact. Do not let the federal and state government take away your autonomy as city and county leaders.
Cities and counties across the country, and in North Carolina have already taken steps to protect their immigrant, refugee, and undocumented communities. Be righteous and do the same for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
USE YOUR VOICE AS CITY LEADERS TO PROTECT US
● A proclamation denouncing ICE raids and arrests in the City of Charlotte, and denouncing the Executive Orders regarding interior enforcement and Muslim/refugee ban.
● A statement to the County Commissioners and the Sheriff to end 287(g) program in Mecklenburg County.
● Investigate the continued ICE operations in Charlotte starting in February 2017
● Submit a FOIA request to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to learn more about the details on how ICE is implementing President Trump’s Executive Orders for interior enforcement. TERMINATE THE 287(G) PROGRAM WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND SHERIFF CARMICHAEL) ● End the Sheriff’s 287(g) contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
● Stop the use of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers for non-citizens incarcerated in Mecklenburg County Jails (North and Central).
● Do not allow ICE into Mecklenburg County Jails without a judicial warrant. OUR IMMIGRATION STATUS SHOULD NOT AFFECT OUR RIGHTS ● Protecting access to city benefits and services, regardless of immigration status;
● Requiring all applications, questionnaires, and forms used in relation to the city that may include information regarding citizenship or immigration status be deleted;
● Prohibiting city agencies and employees from requesting information or investigating a person’s citizenship or immigration status; and that they should not disclose information regarding a person’s citizenship or immigration status;
● Ensuring that no city agency or employee will place conditions related to citizenship or immigration status for services, benefits or opportunities, unless required by law or court order;
● If there are any records that include information of, or can be directly linked to an individual and identify, a person’s religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status (or lack of citizenship), national or ethnic origin, the city should take steps to bar DHS and sub-agencies access to city databases, and when possible, destroy them;
● Barring access to city databases, facilities, equipment, personnel, and other resources for purposes of implementing registries based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, or national or ethnic origin, or to conduct civil immigration enforcement.
STOP CRIMINALIZING OUR COMMUNITIES
● Create or expand programs and diversion programs that provide an effective alternative to charges before arrest or before conviction for a variety of offenses. These programs, which could be diversionary, could start with decriminalizing or creating alternative forms of accountability for: ○ Loitering and disturbing the peace charges; ○ Crimes of survival, such as theft, sex work, and street vending; ○ Offenses that take place in public schools or other public educational facilities (e.g., fighting on school grounds, etc.); Homelessness or panhandling (through policies such as prohibiting sitting or lying on sidewalk, loitering and vagrancy laws); ○ Offenses relating to protesting (trespassing, noise ordinances) ○ Minor traffic offenses like DUIs, No Operators License, Driving While License Revoked, etc.
STOP USING CITY RESOURCES TO HARM OUR COMMUNITIES
● Eliminate the use or city participation in any database tracking supposed gang affiliation, including by local police, school resources officers, and any law enforcement or security guard in public institutions, such as public schools, clinics, and so forth.
● Barring use of city facilities, equipment, personnel, and other resources, to assist immigration enforcement in any way, including for checkpoints and traffic perimeters.
● End all CMPD motor-vehicle check-points.
● Adopt and enforce directives against racial profiling of immigrants, and increase training for CMPD officers to prevent racial profiling in the enforcement of laws.
USE MORE RESOURCES TO PROTECT OUR COMMUNITIES
● Fund organizing as well as legal representation for immigrants.
● Create an office within the city to provide legal services to immigrants and refugees.
● Decrease police funding and reinvest in community institutions that provide long-term safety (e.g., health, housing, education, and other services for communities that establish stability and long-term safety).
● Create Programs to support transgender immigrants in finding meaningful employment.
● Adopt and enforce directives against profiling, demand respectful treatment of transgender people.