Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, a perfectly normal federal agency that has definitely not become a Trump-era goon squad, has created a website to shame newly elected North Carolina sheriffs who have declined to imprison people without a warrant on ICE’s say-so.

If they don’t comply, the website says, ICE will have no choice but to conduct more raids in their communities—and wouldn’t that just be a shame?

The sheriffs elected last year in Wake, Durham, Mecklenburg, Guilford, and Forsythe Counties—all of whom, coincidentally, are black—campaigned on promises to stop cooperating with ICE on detainer requests or take part in the 287(g) program, which essentially turns sheriff’s deputies into de facto immigration agents. (In Wake and Durham, this was the campaign’s defining issue.) Since taking office, they’ve made good on those promises, to ICE’s dismay. 

Earlier this year, after rounding up two hundred allegedly undocumented immigrants in mass raids, ICE blamed these sheriffs and threatened to continue its “more visible presence” in the state if they didn’t do as they were told.  

After ICE complained, Republicans in the General Assembly tried to step in, crafting a bill that would force sheriffs to do ICE’s bidding. It died with Governor Cooper’s veto. 

ICE’s biggest beef is the detainer requests, in which ICE asks sheriffs to keep suspected undocumented immigrants in custody for up to forty-eight hours after their charges have been adjudicated so that ICE agents can detain (and eventually deport) them.

But these requests are constitutionally dicey: They come only with an administrative warrant—meaning, a statement that an ICE agent believes the person is in the country illegally—not a court order or arrest warrant. In short, ICE doesn’t have to convince a judge that the people should be held in jail; it just wants local authorities to take the agency at its word. 

Some courts have ruled that these requests amount to an unconstitutional second arrest and that detainer requests don’t constitute probable cause. 

As Chris Lasch, co-director of the Immigration Law and Policy Clinic at the University of Denver, told the INDY last year: “The way I think about it is the federal government is sending over a piece of paper—the detainer—and asking the locals to hold somebody, but asking them to do it under circumstances where they don’t have authority to do it.” 

As important to sheriffs who work in urban environments, partnering with ICE can breed distrust among Hispanic communities. If residents—including undocumented ones—don’t feel safe calling law enforcement because they fear they or their loved ones will be turned over to immigration officials, criminals can prey on the vulnerable with impunity. (Research, in fact, has shown that cooperating with ICE doesn’t make communities safer and that immigrants commit fewer crimes than natives.) 

And, not for nothing, ICE frequently gets things wrong: According to the National Immigrant Justice Center, ICE wrongly identifies people for removal 30 percent of the time, which means U.S. citizens and legal residents could be held in jail without a court order over something as simple as a misspelled name in a database.

None of that matters, says ICE. What matters is that you should be very, very afraid. 

“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission,” the agency says on its new website, which features rows of scary-looking mug shots of men who “MAY BE RELEASED INTO YOUR COMMUNITY.”

The mostly Hispanic men (and one woman) with “detainers outstanding” in ICE’s nifty Mug Shot Collage are charged with things like murder and drug trafficking and child sexual assault. Of course, never mind that they are actually in jail and—if found guilty—likely to stay locked up a while.

Take, for instance, Efren Caballero, an alleged murderer whom ICE says could be released from the Durham County jail. Turns out, Caballero has been locked up since Valentine’s Day 2016 on a litany of charges—assault on a female, burglary, attempted murder, and, yes, murder. His bond is set at $750,000. 

He’s probably not going anywhere—and even if he was, how hard would it be for ICE to get a court order for his detention? They’ve had almost four years now to do so. 

Same goes for Eliseo Gonzalez, another alleged murderer ICE says is coming for your family. He’s been in the Durham jail since November 2016 on a $500,000 bond. Again, ICE has plenty of time to secure a court order should he eventually be released. 

The two other alleged murderers on ICE’s website aren’t eligible for release, according to The News & Observer

ICE has sought about 160,000 detainers nationwide in the 2019 fiscal year, including 2,975 in North Carolina. Of those, according to data the agency gave WBTV, 489 detainers were declined by law enforcement.

As the N&O notes, “It is not clear if all of these inmates were released or if they were subsequently arrested by ICE.”

The 489 individuals whose detainers were listed had either been charged with or convicted of 1,427 criminal offenses, according to ICE. Most of the charges were for traffic offenses, DUI, assault, and drugs. There were only two homicide charges, and neither of those has resulted in a conviction—which means both individuals are likely still in jail. ICE declined to provide their names to the N&O. 

If the sheriffs don’t get with the program, ICE’s website warns, the mass roundups will be on their heads: “As ICE has repeatedly made clear, when local jurisdictions refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement, they not only betray their duty to protect public safety, but force ICE to be more visible in those areas.”

Got that? Do what we say, or else. 

This is a perfectly normal government agency. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at

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2 replies on “ICE, a Perfectly Normal Government Agency, Creates Website to Shame and Threaten North Carolina Sheriffs”

  1. If there continues to be open borders without restraint and illegals commit felonies in communities, why would you not want local law enforcement to assist? And this issue of ICE rounding up illegals goes right to the root of liberalism and not closing down the borders. I pity the families who have lost family members to a DUI carried out by an illegal. If an illegal killed your child or killed someone in your family while driving DUI don’t you think it would be in everyone’s best interest and your local community’s interest to take the illegal into custody and assist ICE? While we Americans can agree that it adds a burden to local law enforcement, I do believe everyone, and I mean every citizen, needs to be on board and agree on stopping illegals. I think POTUS has the correct agenda and the liberal narrative has this wrong about open borders. It all goes back to the border crisis. It needs a bi-partisan approach to get the wall built and effective bi-partisan legislation to deal with the issue.

  2. I hope the writer of this article realizes that ICE under Obama deported more illegals than ICE has now. But I guess his ideals lined up better with your own. How about leaving your own beliefs out of it and report fact. I am just tired of politics being inundated into every facet of our lives this day in age.

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