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Election 2018: Last Tuesday Was a Great Night for Pro-Immigrant Local Policies

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Last Tuesday was a great night for progressives, immigration advocates, new American voters — and those who believe in pro-immigrant local policies which separate the police from immigration enforcement.

Voters in Oregon and several counties across the nation voted to ensure that local resources are not spent in service of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), a victory for local budgets, local law enforcement officers whose jobs depend on the trust of their communities, and immigrants who have one less cause of abrupt deportation to fear. Daniel Nichanian at The Appeal has been chronicling the places where local cooperation with ICE was on the ballot this year, and what that means for those communities.

In Oregon, over a million people voted against Measures 105, which would have repealed a 30-year-old law prohibiting the use of state and local resources for immigration enforcement. A hate group was responsible for the measure, which was overwhelming rejected by voters 63.3 percent  to 36.7 percent.

In counties in North Carolina, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, and New Mexico, voters rejected Sheriffs who ran anti-immigrant ads, were known to be anti-immigrant officials, or advocated for country resources to be spent in coordination with ICE.

At issue in some of these races was 287(g), a program which first debuted during the Clinton Administration but which has waned in popularity and number of places where it is implemented. In 287(g) counties, ICE deputizes local law enforcement officers to act as ICE agents — i.e., police screen individuals they pick up to determine immigration status and then hold them for ICE agents. There are numerous problems with this program, not the least of which is how it erodes trust between the police and immigrant communities. It’s also a waste of taxpayer dollars, which is part of the reason why there are only around 79 counties participating in the program.

Wake, Buncombe, and Mecklenburg counties, in North Carolina, saw 287(g) come up as an issue, and all three voted the program down. In Buncombe County, Shad Higgins lost his bid to become sheriff after running a Facebook ad explaining why he wanted to have the county join 287(g); his opponent, Quentin Miller, instead became the first African-American to hold that office. Garry McFadden of Mecklenburg County and Gerald Baker of Wake County both won election to the sheriff’s office after pledging to remove their countries from the 287(g) program.  Baker’s win was a major upset, and he replaced Sheriff Donnie Harrison who was running for his fifth term. The ACLU of North Carolina took issue with Harrison’s cooperation with ICE enforcement and ran ads saying Harrison was “tearing families apart and stoking racial tensions.”

Steuart Pittman, who won his election in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, also campaigned on removing the county from the 287(g) program. And voters in Baltimore County rejected Carl H. Magee for Sheriff after he ran an anti-immigrant campaign almost entirely devoted to attacking safe city legislation. In Washington County, Brian Albert of lost his race for Sheriff after campaigning on a platform of joining 287(g). And though the anti-immigrant Sheriff from Frederick County, Chuck Jenkins, won reelection, his race this year was 20 points closer than his last.

Ulster County, New York, is not part of the 287(g) program, but Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum treated his department very much as if it is. Van Blarcum once told reporters that his department checks immigration status “on everybody that comes in.” But last Tuesday, voters rejected Van Blarcum for his more moderate opponent, Juan Figueroa, who distributed flyers that read “immigrants should feel safe to seek the protection of the law.”

Voters in Mckenzie County, North Dakota, ousted anti-immigrant Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger in favor of Matthew Johansen. Schwartzenberger’s major endorsements came from the notorious anti-immigrant Sheriff and convicted human rights abuser, Joe Arpaio, as well as Sheriff Tom Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts, who sits on the Board of Advisors for the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a hate group. Schwartzenberger also attended FAIR’s major hate conference this year and ran a Facebook campaign ad where he is pictured at the event.

In Doña Ana County, New Mexico voters chose moderate Kim Stewart for Sheriff after she suggested she would limit cooperation with ICE. On her campaign website she wrote, “when we become the immigration police, we shut the door forever on those who need our help.” Stewart won by 13 points over her hard-line anti-immigrant opponent, Todd Garrison, becoming the first female sheriff of the county.