Members of our community have lived in fear for too long. They fear being threatened with deportation if they report a crime. They fear that a simple traffic violation could forever separate them from their children, spouse and community. They fear that the public officials who should be protecting and caring for them are instead looking to expel them from the community in which they work, live and pay taxes. Our parents, siblings, friends and neighbors who were born elsewhere should not live in fear. That is why we applaud the important change that took place at the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office last week: Sheriff Garry McFadden cut ties with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its 287(g) program, making life safer for everyone.
For well over a decade, the Sheriff’s Office has voluntarily engaged in a program whose consequences have been exceptionally punitive and hurtful toward our immigrant siblings. The Sheriff’s Office has wasted valuable time and resources actively helping ICE deport people. This has sown distrust toward public authorities, causing people to fear coming forward to report crimes they witnessed or suffered. It has hindered investigations, endangering public safety, while focusing energy on those who were brought in on minor charges.
It never had to be this way. Mecklenburg County’s willingness to do ICE’s job for them was completely voluntary. The vast majority of counties nationwide — approximately 98 percent — don’t have a 287(g) agreement with ICE. And despite efforts to justify the program as being a safeguard against crime, its supporters could never muster credible evidence along those lines, rather only anecdotal scaremongering. Just look at ICE’s response to Sheriff McFadden’s announcement: openly threatening more raids in local neighborhoods and at work sites, and irresponsibly claiming, without evidence, that the decision was “an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses.” Spreading baseless fear, rather than working cooperatively with our local elected officials, flies in the face of responsible leadership.
Instead of keeping us safer, this program undermined the building of safe communities, deprived people of their rights and dignity, and hurt families.
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When we fail to interrupt the fear and devastation being wrought by these policies, we fail our faith as well. Sheriff Garry McFadden’s commitment to ending this arrangement will bring more peace into our community for those who have lived in desperate fear.
As faith leaders, we must strive to always protect one another, support one another and love one another. We are our neighbor’s keeper. Sheriff McFadden’s action to end the 287(g) policy helps us all better fulfill that calling and obligation.
The leaders from a wide cross-section of faiths who signed on to this letter are:
Rev. Nancy Ellett Allison, Ph.D., Pastor, Holy Covenant United Church of Christ
Rev. Nathan Arledge, Myers Park UMC
Rev. Amantha L Barbee, Pastor, Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Church (USA), Chair - Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice
Rev. Amy E. Brooks, UU Fellowship of Lake Norman
Rev. Jim Brookshire, Sedgefield United Methodist Church
Rev. Veronica Cannon, Avondale Presbyterian Church
Rev. Mary Frances Comer, Minister of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church
Dr. Russ Dean, Park Road Baptist Church
Rev. Amy Jacks Dean, Park Road Baptist Church
Iman John Ederer, Muslim Community Center of Charlotte
Dr. Nabil Elias, Baha’i Community of Charlotte
Father Greg Gay, Our Lady of Guadalupe
Rev. Greg Jarrell, Co-Director, QC Family Tree
Rev Jennifer Helms Jarrell, Co-Director, QC Family Tree
Rev. Stephen Roach Knight, Co-Founder, Transform Network
Rev. James C. (Jay) Leach, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte
Father Hugo Medellín, Our Lady of Guadalupe
Rev. Dan McClintock, Park Road Baptist Church
Pastor Ray McKinnon, South Tryon Community United Methodist Church
Rev. Glencie Rhedrick, United Missionary Baptist Association
The Rev. Amanda K. Robertson, Associate Rector, the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter
Rev. Fredrick Robinson, Associate Pastor, Holy Covenant United Church of Christ
Rabbi Judy Schindler
Pawanjit Singh, Director, United Sikhs
Rev. Eve Stevens, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte
Rev. Susan Suarez Webster, Central United Methodist Church
* These faith leaders submitted this as individual clergy and not necessarily on behalf of their respective houses of worship or ministries.