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War of words rages on in fight between Meck sheriff, ICE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The fight between the federal government and a local sheriff over immigrant detention was raised to a new level Friday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement put out a new list of criminal suspects it says Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden let out of jail.

[RELATED: ICE, sheriff call each other out at 2 separate news conferences]

ICE officials said there currently are three people in the Mecklenburg County Jail that they placed a detainer on and want held, but are at risk of being released due to the county's policy.

ICE said all three are in the country illegally, and that two of them are accused of sex crimes with a child.

Immigration officials said, as it stands now, the three could be released without ICE even being notified.

Channel 9 has reported on Ricardo Mata several times. The former head of the Play Spanish summer camp is accused of preying on children and committing sex crimes.

[RELATED: Parents have warning for families after man accused of sex crimes with children]

ICE included him on that list of people who agents say could be released into the community.

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McFadden ran for sheriff on the platform to end cooperation with ICE and end participation in the 287g program. However, he has previously said he has no problem holding whoever ICE wants as long as ICE gets a warrant.

The sheriff believes detainers violate the Constitution because they ask people to be held even if they have met a judge's conditions for release.

The back-and-forth between ICE and McFadden has been going on since he took office.

Sen. Thom Tillis, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Rep. Ted Budd and Rep. Dan Bishop held a news conference on legislation aimed at putting an end to policies like Mecklenburg County's.

Tillis said his legislation would make clear that jails can honor detainers and be reimbursed for the cost of detention.

“These aren't just innocent illegals that cross the border and break immigration laws,” Tillis said. “These are people who violate serious crimes as defined by the state of North Carolina.”

Whether to honor ICE detainers is up to each individual sheriff and Gov. Cooper told Channel 9 it is important for each sheriff to decide how to best serve their community.

“Sheriffs should be given the ability to make those choices,” the governor said. “They are constitutionally elected.”

Not all sheriffs share McFadden's view, including Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, who appeared with Tillis.

“A sheriff that does not enforce laws should have a hard time sleeping at night,” he said.

Under Tillis' legislation, communities that are deemed incompliant by the DHS would not be eligible for certain grant funding.

If it makes it through the Senate, in its current form, the legislation will likely run into some issues in the House, which is controlled by Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Channel 9 has reached out to McFadden but have not heard back.

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