287(g) controversy takes center stage as Charlotte opens new immigration office

287(g) controversy takes center stage as Charlotte opens new immigration office.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte opened a new immigration office Wednesday.

The hope is that it will speed up the process of legal immigration and naturalization.

The new facility increases capacity by 60% and serves residents in nearly 50 counties across the Carolinas.

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However, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer controversy again took center stage.

Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting national director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration, called out Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden.

He blasted the sheriff for eliminating the 287(g) program, the voluntary program that cooperated with ICE

"It is astonishing to me to see a sheriff such as you have in this county who believes scoring political points at the expense of public safety is a good idea," said Cuccinelli.

Cuccinelli called on all law enforcement agencies to work with local and state governments to find common ground on immigration.

But while that's a work in progress, he touted a new 31,000-square-foot office space as a remedy to process people seeking citizenship legally more efficiently.

Cuccinelli said it's a reflection of the president's plan to reform immigration across the board.

"The president has been very aggressive in addressing the immigration crisis that we face in this country," he said.

We've reached out to McFadden for comment.

Just last week, he said politicians and ICE are misrepresenting his policy.

He maintains that detainers from ICE are only requests and not the law.

Statement from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office:

"Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has chosen to join other national leaders to attack me and the citizens of Mecklenburg County while visiting our city today. 

"Most of the citizens of our county understand and agree with the termination of the 287(g) program and my decision to not honor ICE detainers.  The citizens elected me to the Office of Sheriff last year by an overwhelming majority and my stance on immigration issues has not waivered. I look forward to the day that all public safety professionals can sit down to discuss immigration issues and truly work towards a solution to a very broad issue.  

"It's unfortunate that the federal government prefers to use me as a ‘pawn' while pointing fingers and holding news conferences about an ineffective immigration system.

"As a former attorney general, the acting director is aware that I have the discretion to not honor a voluntary agreement, which is not a failure to cooperate with another law enforcement agency to enforce the law. 

"I took an oath and I'm required to uphold the oath of my Office and enforce the law.  Not participating in 287(g) is not refusing to enforce the law. Only 4 out of 100 Sheriffs in NC participate in 287(g) it's a voluntary program. Not honoring detainers is not refusing to enforce the law detainers are requests for voluntary assistance. VOLUNTARY assistance. Meaning you can honor a detainer, but you DON'T HAVE TO.  Public safety is and will always be my top priority for Mecklenburg County.  It remains my sincere belief that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office's current policies of not participating in 287(g) and not honoring ICE detainers are making our community safer."

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