Federal-Local Immigration Enforcement Program Has Saved Lives; Critics Want to End It

Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, seat of the state’s largest city, Charlotte, is one of 59 jurisdictions in the United States participating in the 287(g) program. The program was created by Congress in 1996 as a way for local police and sheriffs’ departments to identify deportable aliens who are taken into custody. It is purely voluntary on the part of the local jurisdictions.

Since Mecklenburg County began using 287(g) in 2006, 15,478 inmates that have passed through the local lock-up have been processed for removal. Sheriff Irwin Carmichael, a Democrat, is an enthusiastic supporter of the program. “We want safety and security and this is a tool for supplying it,” argues Carmichael.

But nowadays, when it comes to anything immigration related, the ‘safety and security’ of the community takes a back seat to the demands of pressure groups. Mecklenburg County is no exception. The program is working. It is removing criminal aliens, and advocates for illegal aliens want that stopped. Carmichael is facing two challengers in an upcoming Democratic primary who are promising to withdraw Mecklenburg County from the 287(g) program if they are elected.

Among the 15,478 aliens who were flagged for removal under Mecklenburg’s 287(g) program were some 4,000 people who were arrested for driving while intoxicated. Data tell us that there is no greater danger to public safety than drunk drivers. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, two out of three Americans will be involved in a traffic accident involving a drunk driver at some point in their lives. For many it will end their lives. In 2016, 10,497 people in this country died that way.

Case in point: This past Sunday, two people were struck and killed along an Indiana highway by a drunk driver. The driver, Manuel Orrego-Savala, was an illegal alien. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have merited more than a few lines in a local newspaper, except for the fact that one of the victims was an NFL linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts.

Another important piece of information is that Orrego-Savala, like many drunk drivers (regardless of immigration status), was a repeat offender. He had twice been convicted for DUI in California. The recidivism rate for drunk driver is about 30 percent. Thus, statistics tell us that if Mecklenburg County’s efforts had not resulted in the removal those 4,000 drunk drivers, it is likely that some 1,200 of them would have been drunk behind the wheel again.

People would have died or been badly injured. Families would have been irrevocably torn apart. But, of course, for illegal alien advocacy network and the politicians who do their bidding, the victims are just collateral damage in their war against any form of immigration enforcement.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.

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