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'My biggest fear growing up': Student, professor speak out against ICE raids in NC

Roughly 200 people were arrested in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids across North Carolina earlier this month.  

Sean Gallagher, director of the ICE field office in Atlanta, referred to recent ICE actions as “the new normal." Recent ICE raids included Durham, Burlington, Charlotte and parts of Wake County, according to ABC11.

The 200 arrests do not include 27 people who were detained after an unrelated ICE raid at Bear Creek Arsenal, an arms manufacturing plant in Sanford, according to an article by the Charlotte Observer. 

A large group of plant workers were taken to the cafeteria, where they were subjected to a process of interrogation, fingerprinting and document verification, as reported by the Sanford Herald

Sophomore Steven Herrera was born in Guatemala and grew up in Sanford, N.C. Previously an undocumented immigrant, Herrera—who is now documented—returned to Sanford for a week to support his community. 

Herrera said that he was most concerned with students going to school in the wake of the raids.

“I understand what these kids who aren’t going to school are fearing,” Herrera said. "That was always my biggest fear growing up.” 

Students whose parents were arrested by ICE no longer have an adult to take them to school, Herrera said.

Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE, said in a statement that the agency does not conduct “random or indiscriminate enforcement” and focuses on individuals with a criminal record. 

Among the 200 arrests, 50 individuals had criminal convictions, while 40 faced pending criminal charges. ICE referred to one-third of the detainees as “collateral” arrests, which include individuals who lacked any kind of criminal conviction, but were discovered to be undocumented during a larger search, according to the News & Observer.  

The number of “collateral” arrests increased by over 20 percent since the last fiscal year, as reported by the News & Observer. Gallagher, the ICE field office director, blamed the increase on N.C. sheriffs who have severed ties with ICE.

Unable to enter county jails without cooperation from the local government, ICE resorts to conducting searches in public spaces, where agents are more likely to find undocumented immigrants without a criminal record, according to Gallagher. 

“If they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, my officers will take an enforcement action,” Gallagher said at the news conference. 

Mayors from seven cities—Durham, Asheville, Burlington, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Fayetteville—have signed a letter condemning the ICE raids. 

“We cannot stop ICE from operating in our cities, but we can and must speak out against these raids which destabilize neighborhoods, traumatize children, hurt many innocent people, and create distrust of law enforcement," the letter said. "The negative collateral consequences of these raids on our cities is enormous.”

In response to the recent ICE activity, Charles Thompson, professor of the practice of cultural anthropology, organized a protest vigil with his wife and Orin Starn, professor of cultural anthropology. 

Through his academic research, Thompson has worked closely with Mexican farmworkers laboring in the United States and students protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.

“Our Constitution says that citizens and non-citizens alike are protected under the law. All of our citizens and non-citizens deserve to live in a community that abides by the rule of law and have protections for our people,” Thompson said. “We don't believe in living in a country where people have to be afraid to go out into the streets because the police are after them.” 

Herrera gave advice to Duke students on what they can do to support those affected by ICE. 

“Reach out to your friends that are directly and indirectly affected by this," he said. "Like personally for me, this is an ongoing fight that I'll never get away from." 


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