Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested undocumented people in several North Carolina cities last week. A statement from ICE says it was part of a surge targeting families, adults who arrived illegally as children, and teens with criminal backgrounds.
Several local police departments, including the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, say recent DUI checkpoints had nothing to do with the recent immigration arrests.
Sheriff's Office Captain Raheem Aleem said he knows that many undocumented people are afraid of law enforcement because getting on ICE's radar could mean deportation.
“Them having that fear about something they hear that happened in another city, that is valid,” Aleem said. “That's a valid concern, and you have to understand that, you have to accept that.”
Aleem said undocumented drivers are unlikely to be arrested or end up with their information shared with federal officials if they have no other outstanding warrants. But he said arrests and citations are up to officer discretion.
In Greensboro, police denied involvement in the arrests of three undocumented men last week. Deputy Chief Mike Richey said officers don't seek out people who are in the country illegally.
“We do not collect immigration status during any of our work,” Richey said. “It's not a requirement by the state, and it's not a requirement we are willing to impose.”
But some immigration activists, like Ivan Almonte of Alerta Migratoria, call checkpoints a "pipeline to deportation."
“They're afraid, I mean, checkpoints in Durham and, I would say any other city in North Carolina, it's just a pipeline to deportation,” Almonte said. “Because if you don't have a driver’s license, you can get arrested.”
Both Richey and Aleem said unlicensed drivers without an outstanding warrant will be ticketed, but not arrested. Aleem added that the Durham County checkpoints this weekend had been planned for months.
ICE is expected to release the results of the recent surge this week.