In North Carolina sheriff’s races, immigration is the driving and dividing issue



Update: In the primaries held on May 8, both Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael and Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews were defeated, thus putting the 287(g) programs in both counties in jeopardy.

This year’s primaries for sheriff in Durham and Mecklenburg Counties will not come down to a choice between Republican and Democrat, rather which candidate is for working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

With no Republicans running in either race, the challengers have attacked the extent to which the current sheriffs have cooperated with federal immigration law enforcement officers, particularly concerning the 287(g) program.

For months, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael has been under constant assault from radical Left protestors and the organized efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The 287(g) program, an initiative created by Congress that allows local police and sheriffs’ departments to inform federal officials of deportable aliens in their custody, has existed in the county since 2006. At the time, law enforcement were only able to identify one-third of those deportable aliens in jails.

While Carmichael has consistently defended the practice – even holding press conferences to explain the program, his challengers Garry McFadden and Antoine Ensley have been unrelenting in their attacks on his position.

With no Republican running, Tuesday’s winner is virtually guaranteed a four-year term and that has attracted outside money and no-border activists.

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched a six-figure advertising campaign “to ensure immigrant communities know their legal rights” when dealing with ICE. In addition to North Carolina, the ads are being aired in Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

And while the ACLU’s North Carolina chapter also began distributing a candidate scorecard and working with Action NC to “educate voters” about the race, the national arm, according to Politico, poured $175,000 into a radio ad campaign.

The ad alleges Sheriff Carmichael of being part of “Trump’s deportation force” and “detaining people for deportation, tearing families apart,” while wasting “our law enforcement resources putting everyone’s safety at risk.”

“We feel like the best way to get rid of the program is to get a new sheriff, somebody that understands that the program is not working.” said Oliver Merino, an organizer with the no-border activist group Comunidad Colectiva.

In Durham County, incumbent Sheriff Mike Andrews has defended his department’s decision to honor ICE detainers, but has tried to straddle the fence.

In a candidate questionnaire, Andrews noted that he tried “on several occasions to reach out to ICE and determine a hierarchy” of the suspects ICE was seeking, but to no avail.

Andrews, who has been in office since 2011, argued it was in the interest of public safety to allow ICE to detain a suspect in jail, rather than to deny federal requests and force agents to pursue suspected criminals in communities.

That, he said, would lead to more fear and “will cause undue stress to the children of these individuals and the community at large.”

On Sunday, Andrews reiterated that stance on Facebook by saying he would not place “other family members, grandparents, parents or children in harm’s way for someone else’s mistake.”

For his challenger and fellow Democrat Clarence Birkhead, obstruction is the only acceptable course of action.

“I will make a clear and uncompromising commitment to not cooperate with ICE. As sheriff, I will not honor ICE detainers and we will not participate in ICE roundups,” said Birkhead in answers submitted to INDYWeek.

Who wins will be known on Wednesday, but we know today that these will not be the last races on the local, state, or national level that will be determined on how a candidate chooses to address our failed immigration policy.

About Author

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Jennifer joined FAIR as Web Content Writer in 2017 and brings to the role extensive communications and media background. She began her career as a policy research analyst on multiple national and state political campaigns before entering journalism. In addition to spending over a decade writing for several broadcast and print news outlets, Jennifer directed communications strategy for a member of Congress and a military nonprofit.

8 Comments

  1. avatar
    Osceola Rifout on

    Durham boycotted police training with IDF with Israel BDS campaign’s, which actually violated anti-BDS law & international trade.

  2. avatar
    Mary Herron on

    America cannot and will not maintain its exceptionalism if we don’t demand assimilation from immigrants. Our exceptionalism demands everyone understand, accept and defend our principles, virtues and values.

  3. avatar
    Mary Herron on

    Romans 13:1–7 makes it abundantly clear that God expects us to obey the laws of the government. The only exception to this is when a law of the government forces us to disobey a command of God (Acts 5:29). Illegal immigration is the breaking of a government’s law. There is nothing in Scripture that contradicts the idea of a sovereign nation having immigration laws. Therefore, it is rebellion against God to unlawfully enter another country. Illegal immigration is a sin.

    Illegal immigration is definitely a controversial issue in the United States (and some other countries) today. Some argue that the immigration laws are unfair, unjust, and even discriminatory—thus giving individuals justification to immigrate illegally. However, Romans 13:1–7 does not give any permission to violate a law just because it is perceived as unjust. Again, the issue is not the fairness of a law. The only biblical reason to violate a government’s law is if that law violates God’s Word. When Paul wrote the book of Romans, he was under the authority of the Roman Empire, led by Emperor Nero. Under that reign, there were many laws that were unfair, unjust, and/or blatantly evil. Still, Paul instructed Christians to submit to the government.

    Are the immigration laws of the United States unfair or unjust? Some think so, but that is not the issue. All developed countries in the world have immigration laws, some more strict than the USA’s, and some less strict, and all have to deal with illegal immigration. There is nothing in the Bible to prohibit a country from having completely open borders or to have completely closed borders. Romans 13:1–7 also gives the government the authority to punish lawbreakers. Whether the punishment is imprisonment, deportation, or even something more severe, it is within the rights of the government to determine.

    Illegal immigration is a complex issue. The vast majority of illegal immigrants in the United States have come for the purpose of having a better life, providing for their families, and escaping poverty. These are good goals and motivations. However, it is not biblical to violate a law to achieve a “good.” Caring for the poor, orphans, and widows is something the Bible commands us to do (Galatians 2:10; James 1:27; 2:2–15). However, the biblical fact that we are to care for the unfortunate does not mean we should violate the law in doing so. Supporting, enabling, and/or encouraging illegal immigration is, therefore, a violation of God’s Word. Those seeking to emigrate to another country should always obey the immigration laws of that country. While this may cause delays and frustrations, it is better than acting illegally. A frustrating law is still a law.

  4. avatar

    Do not support any politician for office who supports sanctuary cities legislation. Vote them out!!! Do not support any of these County Sheriff who support this reckless and lawless policy!!!!

  5. avatar

    Why is no Republican running in this race????This is a disgrace. North Carolina however will not allow you to become a sanctuary county or city. The state will come in and arrest that sheriff or chief of police and remove them from office. Law Enforcement should not be protecting illegal alien criminals from federal immigration authorities.

  6. avatar

    I used to live there in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel hill area.. NC sure has changed because of BATH HOUSE BARRY!!!!

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