Politics & Government

Mecklenburg sheriff blasts ICE in fallout over detainers, standoff suspect

Garry McFadden says he’s being wrongfully blamed by ICE

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said he is wrongfully blamed by ICE after the released of Luis Pineda Ancheta.
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Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said he is wrongfully blamed by ICE after the released of Luis Pineda Ancheta.

In the increasingly public debate over his office’s role — or lack thereof — in federal immigration enforcement, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden has shot back.

He said that he has been unfairly targeted for the release of the man involved in a nine-hour SWAT standoff last month. He defended policy changes effectively cutting ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying they improve, not hurt, public safety in Charlotte. And he said ICE is wrong to fight him in full view of the public.

“The sheriff’s office (is) wrongfully being blamed for the huge burden that’s now being placed on ICE,” McFadden said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

His comments mark another episode in the tense, and growing, back-and-forth in recent weeks between various government agencies over how and why the standoff suspect was twice released from jail.

Luis Pineda-Ancheta, a 37-year-old native of Honduras, has been charged with a variety of offenses related to domestic violence, as well as with illegal re-entry to the U.S.

Following the standoff last month, ICE officials pointed out that they had issued a detainer for Pineda-Ancheta — a request by ICE to hold him in jail until the agency can pick him up.

Under a detainer, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said, Pineda-Ancheta would have not been released from jail, and thus not created a public safety risk.

But McFadden said he has made it clear since his election in November that he would not honor those detainers, which are voluntary.

“It is unfair and inaccurate to suggest that my discretionary decisions,” he said in a nearly four-page-long statement, “are the sole reasons for Pineda-Ancheta’s releases.”

“The discretionary decisions of multiple stakeholders in the criminal justice system — including judicial and law enforcement must also be acknowledged.”

A magistrate or judge, not the sheriff or his deputies, is responsible for determining if — and how — someone is released from jail.

ICE and criminal warrants

Instead of issuing a detainer, McFadden hinted that ICE should have sought a criminal arrest warrant for Pineda Ancheta.

“I am not suggesting that ICE should have sought federal charges,” he said, “but ICE could have sought those charges.”

ICE officials did not request a federal warrant until after he was in the agency’s custody, the U.S. Attorney’s Office previously confirmed to the Observer.

Both ICE and U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray have protested that it would be logistically difficult to file federal charges related to immigration for every potential suspect in the Mecklenburg County Jail.

McFadden is one of several new African-American sheriffs in N.C’s largest counties who campaigned on a platform of cutting their collaboration with ICE.

In particular, he pulled Mecklenburg County out of 287(g), a controversial — and voluntary — partnership that enables sheriff’s deputies to act as immigration enforcement.

“No one ever told me a voluntary agreement was mandatory, even if you did not choose to,” he said.

Staff writer Jane Wester contributed.

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