Last night, due to the activism and work of advocates on the front lines in North Carolina, two sheriffs who have worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — and boasted about it — lost their reelection bids.
In Mecklenberg County, Garry McFadden easily defeated incumbent Sheriff Irwin Carmichael, a long-time supporter of the odious anti-immigrant 287(g) program. McFadden secured 52% of the vote while Carmichael came in last place with about 20% in the Democratic primary.
Opposition to Carmichael’s engagement with ICE was widespread among community groups. The ACLU of North Carolina spent $175,000 in its campaign to defeat Carmichael. In a statement, Karen Anderson, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina said:
These results show that voters care passionately about crucial civil rights issues, from police accountability to the rights of immigrants, and they will vote when they see that their rights depend on it.
As NBC News reported, this race has “national implications” given that Carmichael’s opponents vowed to end the relationship with ICE noting it was ‘“referendum on whether crackdown on immigration is making the community safer.” It was — and Carmichael told a local reporter he “believes it all came down to 287g.”
Just talked one-on-one Sheriff Irwin Carmichael. He said he’s surprised by tonight’s results and believes it all came down to 287g. He’s expected to take the stage shortly for his formal concession speech @SpecNewsCLT #ncpol pic.twitter.com/QWGmSk4R8j
— Kirstin Garriss (@ReporterGarriss) May 9, 2018
In Durham County, Sheriff Mike Andrew, who also worked closely with ICE, lost by a wide margin against Clarence Birkhead.
Big news in Durham, NC: Sheriff Mike Andrews has been defeated by a huge margin by Clarence Birkhead, via @indyweek.
— Taniel (@Taniel) May 9, 2018
Just days before the election at a community forum, Andrew vowed to continue his work with ICE:
Two days before a primary election in which his opponent has the key endorsements, Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews publicly rejected a call by Latino groups to stop honoring ICE detainers, saying to do so would put more people at risk.
Andrews’ answer to a question posed at Sunday’s delegates assembly of the N.C. Congress of Latino Organizations was not new. The sheriff has previously said he would continue to comply with federal immigration requests to hold for 48 hours people in the jail who are in the country illegally if Immigration and Customs Enforcement asks him to do so.
At the same forum, Birkhead stated again his stance that he wouldn’t work with ICE, “‘I have not changed that stance, and I will not change that stance,’ Birkhead said to applause.”
As the News Observer reported, After his win, Birkhead stood by that position: “In his victory speech at a downtown pub 106 Main, Birkhead vowed to not cooperate with federal immigration officials, clean up the jail, treat inmates with dignity and make sure they have the services they need.”
Sheriffs have great power to direct resources in their jurisdiction, and determine how much their officers will be involved in going after immigrants. In Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio famously lost reelection in 2016 after 25 years in office, the result of years-long organization by advocates fed up with Arpaio’s corrupt, anti-immigrant, pro-deportation machine.
As the tweet below, from a prominent Democratic pollster shows, yesterday’s two losses show something similar: that voters reject Donald Trump’s deportation force, and will punish elected officials who cooperate with it.
Sheriff Carmichael's massive defeat in Mecklenburg Cty NC sends a strong message to local law enforcement nationwide:
Cooperate with Trump's deportation squad and voters will punish you #ACLU
— Mark Mellman (@MarkMellman) May 9, 2018