Immigrant communities in North Carolina were rattled this weekend after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested an estimated 200 undocumented immigrants last week.
The rural town of Sanford was “like a ghost town,” according to Rewire News, after nearly 30 employees at a manufacturing plant were taken into custody Tuesday morning as part of an “ongoing criminal investigation.”
“My godmother was here,” an 18-year-old man told local station ABC11.
“He was like, ‘yeah they took her and what they were doing is taking people to the breakroom, and if you didn’t have valid ID, they were taking them out.'”
The raid was filmed by 27-year-old local musician Christian Enrique Canales and showed ICE agents checking the identification of anyone trying to leave the property. Lee County officers took Canales into custody for “communicating threats” to law enforcement. Canales and immigration activist groups believe he was arrested in retaliation for documenting the raid.
“I’m telling you to be careful out there, they are arresting everybody,” Canales said in Spanish on the Facebook Live stream. “Do you know how many families I know right now that are going to be split up?”
In east Charlotte, an area that prides itself on its diversity, at least a dozen undocumented immigrants were arrested. Many were pulled over randomly by ICE, told to show proper identification, and subsequently handcuffed, according to local immigrant outreach organization Comunidad Collectivo.
The arrests come as workplace raids have skyrocketed under the Trump administration.
ICE officials argued during a press conference that these sweeping raids are what happens when local sheriffs offices don’t cooperate with the agency, as a result of sanctuary city policies, which bar such cooperation. However, there are no official sanctuary cities in North Carolina.
“This is the direct conclusion of dangerous policies of not cooperating with ICE,” said Sean Gallagher, who oversees the agency’s operation in the Carolinas and Georgia. “This forces my officers to go out onto the street to conduct more enforcement.”
In December, two of the state’s most populous counties, Mecklenburg and Wake, ended the 287(g) program, which allowed local deputies to check a federal database to see if any inmates are undocumented. If they are, police hold them until ICE is able to start deportation proceedings.
Contrary to what ICE and most Republicans in Congress believe, these agreements between police officers do not make communities safer. In fact, they further embolden ICE to ruthlessly conduct mass raids or set up identification checkpoints to detain any undocumented immigrant who happens to cross an agent’s path.
Police collaboration with ICE also deters undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes and from participating in court proceedings because of deportation fears. High-profile reports of arrests at a courthouse in Denver caused four immigrant women to drop their domestic abuse cases. In El Paso, ICE arrested an undocumented transgender woman as she attempted to seek a protective order against an abusive boyfriend.
Three gang members in Florida recently kidnapped, robbed, and tortured an undocumented man in South Florida because they believed he would be too afraid to report to the authorities.
“It is believed that this group is targeting undocumented immigrants and robbing them for their cash,” Davie Police Sgt. Mark Leone told the Sun Sentinel. “We believe that they target these undocumented immigrants because they are less likely to report being a victim of a crime to the police.”
New Jersey recently unveiled a new set of laws aimed at addressing this problem. The state’s new “Immigrant Trust Directive,” which was promoted by local immigrant activist organizations, protects immigrants in their interactions with state law enforcement while also building trust between police and migrant communities.
The North Carolina raids come as the federal government is barreling towards another potential shutdown, not over money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but over the number of beds at ICE detention facilities. Congressional Democrats want to impose a cap of about 16,500, forcing the Trump administration to prioritize deportation only for immigrants who pose real security threats. ICE, however, has historically disregarded caps imposed by Congress. While Congress set a limit of 40,500 detention beds, ICE has consistently increased the number of detained immigrants above that number.