In North Carolina, Ending 287(g) Agreements Means More Crime

Press Releases

May 18, 2021

IRLI investigation reveals the cost of irresponsible anti-borders policies

WASHINGTON—An investigation into two North Carolina counties that cancelled cooperation agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) found that not only did the number of criminal illegal aliens and other non-citizens transferred from local law enforcement custody to ICE custody decrease after the cancellations, but violent crime in the two jurisdictions increased. This comes as members of Congress are pressing to defund such cooperation agreements altogether.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) looked at the Tar Heel counties of Mecklenburg and Wake, which cancelled their 287(g) agreements with ICE for the transfer of criminal aliens to federal custody and possible deportation.

The Politics of 287(g)

These investigation results are extremely relevant given the current political climate in Washington. Spurred on by the Biden administration’s all-out assault on our immigration laws, Democrats in Congress are calling for the 287(g) program nationwide to be defunded. In short, they want the increases in violent crime discovered in these North Carolina counties to become the norm in every American community. 

Garry McFadden in Mecklenburg County and Gerald Baker in Wake County were elected to office in the aftermath of the 2018 elections. The newly elected sheriffs ousted incumbents on the promise to end their respective 287(g) agreements with ICE. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reportedly spent $100,000 on radio advertisements to boost Baker’s campaign efforts, and the left-wing organization also paid for similar ads in support of McFadden’s candidacy. 

Mecklenburg County had entered into its 287(g) agreement in 2006, and Wake County entered into one in 2008. Both McFadden and Baker terminated these agreements immediately upon entering office in December 2018. 

The Nexus Between Higher Crime and Ending 287(g) Agreements

According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which tracks violent crime in every county in North Carolina, Mecklenburg saw a rise in every violent crime category—including murder, rape robbery, aggravated assault—from 2018 to 2019. The 287(g) program was nixed in December 2018, making 2018-2019 a good comparison of the program for both counties. While there was not an increase in every violent crime category, Wake County also saw a rise in overall violent crime between 2018 to 2019.

“If the goal is to make communities safer, cancelling 287(g) agreements is one of the worst things elected leaders can do,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “The reduction in custody transfers allows these aliens to re-enter the community and the opportunity to commit additional crimes. Anti-borders sheriffs who are campaigning against 287(g) need to be held accountable by their constituents for this reckless abandonment of their core responsibilities.”

Named after a section in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the 287(g) program facilities greater collaboration between ICE and the law enforcement agencies that sign on to these formal written agreements. Namely, participating agencies will deputize some of their officers to perform the duties of immigration agents — such as inquiring about immigration status and checking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database. The result being illegal aliens in local custody who are wanted by ICE are more quickly identified, and the transfer of custody is better streamlined.

Less Transfers of Criminal Aliens to ICE

As part of its investigation, IRLI asked both the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and Wake County Sheriff’s Office to provide the number of aliens transferred into ICE custody during the life of their 287(g) programs and beyond, broken down by year. The findings confirm that the end of 287(g) led to a drop in ICE transfers. 

ICE sends I-203 forms to certain jurisdictions to transfer a detainee into federal custody. In Mecklenburg, ICE only lodged 142 of these I-203 forms with the county in fiscal year 2019, which began several months before McFadden ended the program, according to data reviewed by IRLI.  The 142 203s marked the lowest number since fiscal year 2007 in Mecklenburg County — and a sharp decline from the 537 203s lodged just prior in fiscal year 2018. 

The decline in Mecklenburg County, however, paled in comparison to the drop in Wake County.

In fiscal year 2018, 1,556 aliens in the Wake County Sheriff’s Office were transferred into ICE custody. In fiscal year 2019, that number plummeted to just two aliens. The current fiscal year is appearing to flow on the same trajectory, with just one alien so far transferred into ICE custody. The current transfers coming out of Wake County are the lowest on record. Despite the county entering into a 287(g) agreement in 2008, the sheriff’s office could only provide data back to 2012. 

The data from Mecklenburg County and Wake County suggest that a greater number of criminal aliens are avoiding ICE detection and apprehension, leaving them free to roam across the state. 

287(g) a Critical Tool for Safer Communities

As of January 2021, ICE has entered into a total of 148 287(g) agreements across the country. While more progressive jurisdictions like Wake and Mecklenburg have chosen to terminate their 287(g) programs, the number of agreements in the U.S. have risen in recent time, with sheriffs contending it helps them identify dangerous individuals who are living in the U.S. illegally.

“A critical mission of law enforcement officers is to safeguard their communities, and these sheriffs are failing in that mission when they abandon 287(g) agreements,” said Tom Homan, IRLI senior fellow and former acting director of ICE. “It is very fashionable today for elected officials to pander to immigrant groups by supporting sanctuary laws and opposing 287(g) agreements, but those actions clearly result in more violent crime and innocent people being killed. It’s a national tragedy and cannot continue.”

Non-citizens, living legally or illegally in the United States, can be arrested by local police for a myriad of crimes unrelated to immigration — such as DUI, aggravated assault, sexual abuse, etc. For those living in the country illegally and wanted by ICE, it is imperative that local authorities work with ICE to allow for a safe transfer of custody. When cooperation is terminated and these transfers are limited, more aliens are then able to be released back into the community, where they have the opportunity to re-offend and commit further crimes.

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