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New sheriff tells ICE he’ll end controversial jail immigration program in Mecklenburg

On his first full day as Mecklenburg County Sheriff Wednesday, Garry McFadden notified the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he was ending the county’s 287(g) agreement, according to a news release.

The program used to allow sheriff’s deputies to perform immigration enforcement duties inside the jail, with supervision from ICE.

The county’s 287(g) program has sent more than 15,000 people into deportation proceedings since 2006, and ending it was a major part of McFadden’s campaign. He defeated former Sheriff Irwin Carmichael in May’s Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the general election.

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ICE spokesman Bryan Cox confirmed that the federal agency received McFadden’s notification Wednesday. The notification, which was sent by fax, immediately and unilaterally ended the program, in accordance with an agreement between ICE and the sheriff’s office.

Without 287(g), McFadden said, ICE officials will need to have court-issued warrants or detainers to access the jail.

Attorney Becca O’Neill, who is working as special counsel to McFadden, said those warrants will be related to immigration violations, not general criminal offenses.

McFadden said the end of 287(g) means people in immigrant communities will be more willing to report crime, and he said he also expects it to improve diversity among local law enforcement officers in the long run.

Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes illegal immigration, said the end of 287(g) compromises public safety, because the program helped law enforcement agencies cooperate and share information effectively.

McFadden said the sheriff’s office will still have a “working relationship” with ICE.

“ICE still has to be in this county, it has to be in this city,” he said. “So it’s not like we’re mad with each other — I just don’t agree with the policy.”

McFadden signed a ceremonial version of the ICE notification Wednesday afternoon at Manolo’s Bakery, an immigrant-founded business on Central Avenue.

Several people who spoke during the bakery event said they knew people who have been deported due to 287(g) and many more who worried about getting pulled over for a minor offense and ending up in deportation proceedings.

“(He’s) the first sheriff that has listened to the cries of the Latino community, and the fears that we face when we walk out the door,” Stefania Arteaga said. Arteaga is an organizer with the local activist organization Comunidad Colectiva, which campaigned for the end of 287(g).

Bakery owner Manolo Betancur said he brought his children to watch McFadden sign the notification, and the bakery made an anti-287(g) cake for the occasion.

Betancur said it might be the most important cake the bakery has ever made, because it commemorated the end of a policy that separated families.

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