Power to the Polls. Justice to All.  

The Immigration Committee is taking CWM’s Power to the Polls charge to heart by providing members with learning and advocacy opportunities related to local elections that directly affect the region’s immigrant population.

Of particular note is the upcoming Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s race. This is one that warrants immediate attention and engagement as its outcome will be decided with the May 8th primary. Three Democratic candidates are vying for the sheriff position: incumbent Irwin Carmichael and challengers Antoine Ensley and Gary McFadden. No Republicans are running for sheriff.

Much is at stake with this election, including the fate of the 287(g) program, which CWM and most progressive organizations strongly oppose.

Here’s the background:

287(g) is a federal program, named for a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which enables state and local law enforcement personnel to act on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in enforcing federal immigration law. 287(g) is not required by law. It is a voluntary contractual agreement, and very few U.S. counties have chosen to participate.

While the initial intent of 287(g) was to identify and pursue those who committed serious crimes that threatened public interests, the program in Mecklenburg County has far exceeded those parameters.

Our neighbors are being unjustly targeted, detained and deported. In fact, most immigrants turned over to ICE have been apprehended for minor violations like driving without a license or expired license tags. Such a wholesale roundup of undocumented immigrants does not make our community safer. What it does, in fact, is crowd our jails, disrupt families, increase the victimization of immigrants, prompt a concerning rise in the number of unreported crimes, harm relationships between police and local communities, and incur additional taxpayer expense.

Fact Check: Being in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor. It is a civil infraction, not a crime.

Other important issues:

Solitary confinement of youth (16- and 17-year-olds), a practice ended at the federal and state levels, continues in Mecklenburg County. Juvenile offenders, including some who have yet to be convicted, can be subjected to solitary confinement, depriving them of interaction, classes, recreation time and calls beyond those to lawyers and bondsmen.

Fact Check: North Carolina is just one of two states that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.

Finally, the issue of in-person vs. video-only visitation is one to consider as you fill out your ballot in May. Studies show that family visits correspond to decreased recidivism rates, yet the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Office has made it harder for inmates to connect with family members. Mecklenburg County recently installed video technology, allowing inmates to have screen time with family members, for a fee. Sounds like a welcome benefit, right? Not so fast: At the same time, the Sheriff’s Office has discontinued in-person visits, making ‘virtual’ visits the sole option for inmates – an option that leaves much to be desired, according to those frustrated by poor audio and video quality, unresolved technical issues and cost.

So, what can you do?

Read the letter Dear Sheriff Carmichael, signed by CWM and 40+ Charlotte organizations urging Sheriff Carmichael to discontinue the hurtful and ill-advised 287(g)program.

Get to know the issues and candidates. Attend the Mecklenburg County Sheriff Candidate’s Forum, Sunday, April 22, 2-4pm, @ Johnson C. Smith University, Biddle Auditorium. All three candidates will attend. The forum is hosted by the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace & Social Justice, the Black Presbyterian Clergy of Charlotte, and Reentry Partners of Mecklenburg, Faith and Public Life. You’ll have the chance to learn their stance on the issues.

 VOTE on May 8 – and encourage others to as well. Take your power to the polls!


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