What Is The New Normal For Immigrants In North Carolina?

Feb 20, 2019

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained at least 200 people in North Carolina earlier this month. In a press conference, ICE Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Gallagher told journalists that more visible enforcement is a direct consequence of decreased cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement agencies. 

In recent months, newly-elected sheriffs in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties have ended their 287(g) agreements with immigration officials, and the new sheriffs in Durham and Forsyth Counties have announced their decisions to end the practice of honoring ICE detainers. Host Frank Stasio talks to Ilana Dubester, founder and executive director of El Vinculo Hispano/The Hispanic Liaison in Siler City. Dubester was present during an ICE raid earlier this month at Bear Creek Arsenal, a manufacturing plant in Sanford.

Bryan Cox also joins the conversation to share how ICE is defining this “new normal” for immigrants in North Carolina. Cox is the southern region communications director for ICE. And scholar Felicia Arriaga provides statewide context for current immigration actions. Arriaga is an assistant professor of sociology at Appalachian State University. Stasio also hears from Elena Jimenez, an Asheboro woman whose husband was detained by ICE officials in late January.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

We certainly prefer to work with our state and local partners. But ... In situations where local partners are not going to work with this agency, ICE has no choice but to continue to enforce federal immigration law on its own. - Bryan Cox

Dubester on the larger questions raised by ICE action in the state:

I think what's important to keep in mind here is that we're not going to deport our way out of an immigration problem. We have 11 million undocumented immigrants from all parts of the world in this country … We need to look at this holistically. There is no way — aside from incredibly inhumane and ridiculous strategy — to deport 11 million people from this country.

Cox on the people ICE is targeting:

ICE is absolutely focused on criminals and public safety threats ... For all of 2018 [in] the local field office — which covers Georgia and the Carolinas — more than 90% of the persons arrested by ICE in violation of federal immigration law either had a prior criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge.

Arriaga on the effect of recent ICE action on communities in North Carolina:

I think it's having at least a local effect of allowing these community members to ask questions of their local law enforcement in particular, given that there has been clear indications that law enforcement has taken one stance on whether or not they're going to collaborate with ICE … So I think we're seeing a wide array of community groups really invested in thinking about how their sheriff's office is running beyond even immigration enforcement. And I think that that's helpful in some ways for what political participation looks like at the local level at this point.