CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg law enforcement leaders held a meeting billed with the purpose of bridging the gap between police and an immigrant community that often lives in the shadow of distrust.
Charlotte's police chief Kerr Putney and Mecklenburg County’s new sheriff, Garry McFadden answered questions about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the 287(g) program that McFadden officially ended in Mecklenburg County Wednesday.
The 287(g) program allows deputies to run a suspect's name through immigration databases to determine if they're in the country without documentation.
Channel 9’s Mark Becker and Belen Gomez-Jordana with our partner Telemundo were at the meeting and spotted two ICE supervisors sitting quietly in the crowd.
Gomez-Jordana approached Robert Alfieri and Steven Larocca, and asked if she could ask them a question.
Assistant Director Alfieri responded, “No, I’m not here to answer questions. I’m a concerned citizen just like anyone else.”
When asked what he had learned at the meeting, Alfieri added, “I learned Mecklenburg County is not as safe as it was.”
Putney told Telemundo he heard rumors that ICE was at the meeting and was disappointed they didn't get involved.
“If they were here, I’m kind of sad they didn’t want to speak up when questions concerning them were posed,” said Putney.
ICE spokesman, Bryan Cox, said the agents didn’t speak because they weren’t invited to speak.
Cox told Channel 9 the agents were in attendance because McFadden stopped communicating with them after ending the 287(g) program.
“Given that the local officials are not giving us any type of information, we're simply seeking to learn the same information they're providing to the public. So that's the simple reason we're there,” said Cox.
The awkward exchange underlines the tension between immigration officers and many in the community where trust is hard to find.
ICE officials said in a statement that they're committed to enforcing federal law and people can expect a more visible ICE presence in the community, making more arrests in neighborhoods and jobsites.
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