Violent Crime Jumped in Two Counties That Stopped Cooperating With ICE, Report Finds

May 19, 2021 Updated: May 19, 2021

Two North Carolina counties that canceled cooperation agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) subsequently experienced an upsurge in violent crime, according to a new report.

The report, by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), comes as left-wing lawmakers, led by Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, call for slashing funding for the so-called 287(g) program, which creates a framework for cooperation between local law enforcement officials and federal immigration authorities. Founded in 1986, IRLI is a public interest law firm that describes itself as being “dedicated to achieving responsible immigration policies that serve our national interest.”

“Named after a section in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the 287(g) program [facilitates] greater collaboration between ICE and the law enforcement agencies that sign on to these formal written agreements,” according to IRLI.

“Participating agencies will deputize some of their officers to perform the duties of immigration agents—such as inquiring about immigration status and checking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database. The result being illegal aliens in local custody who are wanted by ICE are more quickly identified, and the transfer of custody is better streamlined.”

As of January 2021, ICE had entered into a total of 148 287(g) agreements across the country. ICE says the program “continues to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from its partners.”

Radical groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have urged the Biden administration to end the program altogether. Critics claim the longstanding program undermines trust in law enforcement in immigrant communities and discourages illegal aliens from calling the police for help or reporting crimes. The ACLU even wants the administration to end the practice of issuing detainers, or requests for local law enforcement to detain a person for ICE beyond their scheduled release.

Democrats Garry McFadden in Mecklenburg County and Gerald Baker in Wake County were elected as sheriffs in 2018 after promising on the campaign trail to end their respective counties’ 287(g) agreements with ICE. The ACLU spent $175,000 on ads to help elect McFadden, NBC News reported. The group spent $100,000 on ads for Baker, the Raleigh-based News & Observer reported.

After his election, Baker flaunted his planned noncooperation with the federal government.

“We serve a lot of communities,” Baker said. “We want to make it so that the Wake County Sheriff’s Office treats everybody the same and improves the quality of life for each and every person. It’s about humanity. It’s about just caring for people. That’s a large part of what this office will be doing, moving forward.”

Violent crime went up in Mecklenburg and Wake counties after they abandoned the 287(g) program.

According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Mecklenburg County saw an increase in every category of violent crime —including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—from 2018 to 2019 after the new sheriff took office. The violent crime rate in the county rose to 688.1 per 100,000 persons in 2019 from 612.3 per 100,000 persons in 2018, the NCSBI reported.

While Wake County didn’t experience a jump in every violent crime category, it did see an increase in overall violent crime between 2018 and 2019. NCSBI figures show the violent crime rate in the county rose to 250.0 per 100,000 persons in 2019 from 244.2 per 100,000 persons in 2018.

“If the goal is to make communities safer, canceling 287(g) agreements is one of the worst things elected leaders can do,” said Dale Wilcox, IRLI’s executive director and general counsel.

“The reduction in custody transfers allows these aliens to reenter the community and the opportunity to commit additional crimes. Anti-borders sheriffs who are campaigning against 287(g) need to be held accountable by their constituents for this reckless abandonment of their core responsibilities.”

After the counties left the 287(g) program, the number of aliens they transferred to ICE fell off significantly, according to IRLI’s report.

ICE sends I-203 forms to certain jurisdictions to transfer a detainee into federal custody. In Mecklenburg County, ICE filed 142 of these I-203 forms with the county in fiscal 2019, which began several months before McFadden ended the program. The 142 I-203 forms marked the lowest number since fiscal 2007 in the county—and a steep drop from the 537 I-203s filed in fiscal 2018.

The decline in Wake County was even more dramatic.

In fiscal 2018, 1,556 aliens in the Wake County Sheriff’s Office were transferred to ICE. In fiscal 2019, the figure plummeted to just two aliens. The current fiscal year seems to be on a similar trajectory, with just one alien transferred so far to ICE. The current transfers coming out of Wake County are the lowest on record. Although the county entered into a 287(g) agreement in 2008, the sheriff’s office could only provide data back to 2012.

“The data from Mecklenburg County and Wake County suggest that a greater number of criminal aliens are avoiding ICE detection and apprehension, leaving them free to roam across the state,” the IRLI report concludes.

“A critical mission of law enforcement officers is to safeguard their communities, and these sheriffs are failing in that mission when they abandon 287(g) agreements,” IRLI senior fellow Tom Homan, a former acting director of ICE, said in the report.

“It is very fashionable today for elected officials to pander to immigrant groups by supporting sanctuary laws and opposing 287(g) agreements, but those actions clearly result in more violent crime and innocent people being killed. It’s a national tragedy and cannot continue.”