Politics & Government

Report criticizes deportation program for netting minor offenders

A congressional report released Wednesday criticizes a $40 million federal immigration program in place in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties, saying it is being used to round up minor offenders instead of the serious criminals it was designed to nab.

The program, which gained national attention after being put in place in 2006 by then-Mecklenburg Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, allows local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. It was created to address serious crimes, such as gangs and narcotics smuggling, the report said.

But some local law enforcement agencies nationwide have used the program – known as 287(g) – to deport immigrants for minor crimes such as speeding. The report studied 29 of the 67 participating agencies, including the Mecklenburg sheriff's office.

"We could have told them that a long time ago without having to go through the cost of the report," said Angeles Ortega-Moore, executive director of the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte.

"The intention was to grab hard criminals, but the unintended consequences were they were really targeting minor traffic offenders."

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