• Immigration activist under ICE investigation for child assault accusation

    By: Tina Terry

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A man who once criticized police and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for what he called the harassment of immigrants is now in trouble with the federal agency.

    Charlotte children's program owner charged with indecent liberties

    Ricardo Mata operated Play Spanish, a tutoring program for thousands of kids in Charlotte. 

    Last year, he told The Charlotte Observer that two teachers at his business were “harassed, verbally abused,” and in one case “fondled” by police at “immigration checkpoints in Charlotte and near Gastonia.”

    He told the newspaper that the harassment led him to temporarily close down his business.

    About a year later, Mata was arrested and accused of assaulting a 6-year-old girl during a summer camp at a Charlotte church.

    ICE officials told Channel 9 that while in jail, the Mecklenburg County 287(g) program identified him as an unlawfully present foreign national.

    ICE officials said Mata’s reported complaints about police at immigrant checkpoints are part of a false narrative about ICE operations.

    “Rumors of random and indiscriminate immigration enforcement are categorically false,” ICE spokesman Dave Cox said.

    He added that “individuals who spread misinformation and fear, by pushing false information to the community do a disservice to the very community they claim to represent.”

    Advocates for the Latin American Community in Charlotte said despite the Mata case, it is true that dozens of immigrants are being targeted and unfairly harassed daily.

    "It's one individual who is not a representative of a community. To highlight one as an example of a reason to carry out enforcement the way they carry it out is troubling,” Jose Hernandez Paris said.

    Mata will face his state charges first. Afterward, ICE will take him into custody to deal with immigration issues.

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