Abolishing 287(g) could lead to more arrests of undocumented immigrants, ICE says

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An immigration official talked to Channel 9 about an arrest ICE made in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

That does not happen often, but the official said it could become more frequent.

The issue surfaced when activists stood behind a Colombian woman, Maria Cometa, who'd been arrested by ICE agents at the courthouse when she appeared on an assault charge filed by her ex-boyfriend after an argument.

The ex-boyfriend was also arrested for assaulting her 15-year-old son.

“It's a very unfortunate situation, and it goes to show the kind of extremities ICE is willing to go through,” said Stefania Arteaga, with Comunidad Collectiva.

Arteaga said Cometa's case is an example of how ICE has been stepping up their enforcement over the last year and a half.

A spokesman for ICE said that's not the issue.

“The reason that this person was taken into custody is because they, themselves, were facing criminal charges,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said.

ICE agents would prefer not to make arrests at courthouses, but they're not off limits either, Cox said.

Federal, state and local law enforcement goes to courthouses to take persons into custody,” Cox said.  “The premise that ICE should somehow be different, I would ask, ‘Why?’”

Mecklenburg County's incoming sheriff, Garry McFadden, said he will stop the 287(g) program that identifies undocumented immigrants booked into the jail.

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ICE said that could actually lead to more public arrests at the courthouse and elsewhere.

Activists are promising to fight that.

“Really, what we're doing with the work at Comunidad Collectiva is to try to organize the community to say, ‘Stop,’” Arteaga said.

Arteaga said the district attorney said he will drop the assault charge Cometa is facing.

That may not change Cometa’s position in immigration court where she'll have to show why she should be allowed to stay in the U.S.

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