MECKLENBURG CO., N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden responded to the U.S. Attorney's Office on Wednesday after being accused of failing to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and not notifying ICE of the release of a suspect in the country illegally.
McFadden began the press conference reiterating his decision not to participate in 287(g), a voluntary program that requests local jails identify inmate's citizenship status and detain them until ICE is able to verify that status. Eliminating the program was one of his first acts as sheriff.
"No one ever told me that a voluntary agreement was mandatory," McFadden said. "Again, it is not mandatory, and no where in the conversation did it say 'if you did not participate in this agreement...we will say that you did not cooperate with us.'"
The sheriff says he feels that his decision to not particiapte in the optional program is now being slated as 'non-cooperation,' and stated that in his view, issues of immigration are not something to be dealt with at the county level, but rather at the federal level.
Wednesday's conference followed ICE's arrest of a Honduran national in the country illegally, Luis Pineda-Anchecta.
Pineda-Anchecta was first taken into custody on May 15 for several domestic-related crimes. He was released two days later after posting bail. The suspect was later accused in other crimes, and when officers went to serve warrants on him on May 23, he barricaded himself inside of a home, causing an hours-long standoff.
Following his arrest in the standoff, Pineda-Anchecta again made bail and was released from jail on June 1.
In the press release concerning Pineda-Anchecta's arrest by ICE agents on June 2, the Attorney's Office noted that both times he was released, "the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office did not honor the detainer and did not notify ICE about his release from custody."
A detainer "requests notification of that person’s presence at that facility and places a hold on that person so that immigration officers may have a reasonable period of time to determine that person’s true identity, immigration status and criminal history," according to the Attorney's Office.
McFadden says he is upset with the suggestion that the sheriff's office is not safeguarding the community by not participating in the program and holding Pineda-Anchecta.
"I also am very disappointed in the U.S. Attorney's Office for saying I may not be committed to the safety of this community. I think that my three-plus decades of service to this community will speak for itself," he said. "Why am I, Sheriff Garry McFadden, being personally blamed?"
On Monday, June 3, McFadden said that rather than ICE issuing an order for arrest based on Pineda-Anchecta's illegal re-entry into the country, they issued a voluntary detainer, "knowing that it is against my policy to honor such detainers."
McFadden says that the sheriff's office is, and will continue to do what is required of them by the federal governenment.
"Am I cooperating with the federal government and federal officials? Yes," McFadden said. "We are assisting them and cooperating with them."
He says his office would have honored a warrant for arrest for Pineda-Anchecta rather than an ICE detainer, and says he doesn't understand why that request was not made by ICE. He reiterated this statement on Wednesday.
"287(g) is off the table. You bring me a federal warrant," he said. "We will honor a federal criminal warrant. We will honor that all day. A detainer...we do not honor detainers."
A federal judicial official must sign a warrant. A detainer is only signed by an ICE agent.
The debate over 287(g) has been a topic of conversation across Mecklenburg County since Spring 2018, when the race for sheriff began and McFadden promised to dismantle the program.
In March, House Bill 370 was introduced, which would require NC sheriff's to participate in 287(g). It would compel sheriff's to honor and fulfill detainer requests from the federal government for illegal immigrants who are already incarcerated for being charged with a crime.
The bill also makes it unlawful for any county to prohibit federal immigration officials from entering or conducting immigration enforcement activities in a county jail, confinement facility, or other type of detention center.
The bill passed the house, and has been sent to the Senate.