Local immigration advocates say there have been more arrests by federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement across Western North Carolina. Those come after around 15 people were detained last weekend in Buncombe and Henderson Counties. ICE spokesman Bryan Cox says the agency makes arrests on a daily basis as part of ongoing enforcement activity. Appearing on The State Of Things Tuesday, Cox says ICE agents target specific individuals who are in the country undocumented and have criminal records. But he added - “If we go to a location looking for a person on a target list and we happen to encounter other individuals who are in the country unlawfully, ICE is not going to turn a blind eye. We may take those individuals into custody as well.”
Bruno Hinojosa Ruiz of the local immigrant advocacy group Companeros Immigrantes de las Montanas en Accion (CIMA) says these arrests have been different from prior ICE operations as they have targeted not at their homes but outside of them, adding that has put a real chill into Western North Carolina's immigrant community. “At one point we had a group of people that were going to work. Three individuals were in the car. One of them was detained. And then the other two individuals, one of them told us they got their fingerprints taken with this little gadget, kind of like an iPad. And then they also took a picture of their passports. And they had no criminal record. No (criminal) history whatsoever.”
Ruiz adds they expect these specific ICE operations to continue the rest of this week. He was scheduled to speak at Tuesday's evening's Buncombe County board of commissioners meeting, urging them to do something to help the immigrant community. Ruiz admits he's not sure specifically what they can do, but says lawmakers should not just let the arrests occur and do nothing in response.
In statements released after the initial wave of arrests, both the Buncombe County and Henderson County sheriff's offices and the Asheville Police Department said no officers from any of the agencies participated in ICE's operations. This topic was the subject of a question during Monday's BPR/Citizen-Times forum with candidates running for Buncombe County sheriff. You can watch that now on BPR's Facebook page. The forum will also air Friday May 4th at noon.