Federal immigration officials have arrested dozens of people in North Carolina since Tuesday morning.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 27 people Tuesday at Bear Creek Arsenal, a gun-manufacturing company in Sanford, the federal agency said.
In Charlotte, advocates say at least 12 people were arrested early Wednesday during several traffic stops, The Charlotte Observer reported.
El Pueblo, a Raleigh-based group that advocates for Latinos across North Carolina, said in a statement Wednesday that arrests have also been made in Wake, Durham and Alamance counties.
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Advocacy groups, faith leaders and some elected leaders have spoken out against the arrests.
“ICE has little to no regard for the well-being of individuals and the financial, mental and physical health of their children and loved ones,” the group said. “Students came home from school yesterday to find themselves without a mother or father, with a strong possibility that they may never see them again.”
ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell indicated arrests across the state were not a coordinated effort. The agency makes arrests daily and “conducts targeted immigration enforcement,” she said in an email.
“If arrests were made (Tuesday) at other locations in North Carolina, they were separate from the criminal investigation and subsequent arrests that took place at Bear Creek Arsenal,” she said.
Of the 27 people arrested at the manufacturing plant in Sanford, about 45 miles southwest of Raleigh, 25 face criminal charges and two face civil immigration violations, according to Cutrell.
Court documents show at least some of the people are accused of using fake Social Security numbers for work.
ICE launched an investigation into Bear Creek Arsenal last March, court records show. Investigators reviewed 200 I-9 employment forms and found that “numerous” workers were using fraudulent forms of government-issued identification to obtain work.
In a statement posted on social media, Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said Bear Creek Arsenal officials said Homeland Security confirmed that the company complied with laws and regulations related to hiring.
Mann distanced town officials from the arrests and praised the local Latino community.
“Yesterday’s raid of a local business by Homeland Security and ICE was not an operation that was shared with the City of Sanford,” he said. “No request was made to the Sanford Police Department to assist and no courtesy or information call was given. Even though this event occurred in the City we were not made privy to it.”
He continued: “Our Latino community has always been a vibrant part of our City and we have made great strides through our Building Integrated Communities — The Latino Immigration Project — to engage and weave our Hispanic citizens into our City and County.”
Christian Canales, who works at a nearby company, said a friend who was detained by ICE agents at Bear Creek Arsenal called him at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“He was kind of scared,” said Canales, 27. “He’s still detained. I’m trying to figure out where he was taken.”
Canales, who grew up in Sanford, said he went to the manufacturing plant Tuesday morning and entered through the front door.
“I heard a commotion. They were saying, ‘Oh, they’re separating people,’” Canales said. “I seen them separating people. They were already separated. They had them in a break room and were checking the documents of the people allowed to leave.”
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, said the arrests in Charlotte also “appear to be related to a worksite action.”
“In the past year, the Trump Administration has conducted an increased number of these raids and that is an issue of deep concern,” Adams said in a statement Wednesday. “I have been in communication with ICE and other Department of Homeland Security officials.”
Vespey Garcia, a phlebotomist in Charlotte, said that her uncle, Luis Rivas, was arrested in Durham while driving to work at a construction site with his brother, Gilberto.
They had barely pulled out of the driveway in their house near Chapel Hill, Garcia said, when their car was stopped by officials standing near three unmarked vehicles on the side of the road.
Asked to show IDs, Gilberto provided his work permit and was told he could go. But when Luis was only able to offer up his Salvadoran passport, she said, the officers they told him to get out of the vehicle and detained him.
“At that moment they didn’t tell him his rights,” she said. “They put him in handcuffs and didn’t even tell him what he was being arrested for.”
Faith in Public Life, a network of nearly 50,000 clergy and faith leaders across the country, issued a statement saying North Carolina pastors want “to keep families together and defund hate.”
“Raids such as these serve only to terrorize immigrants,” Julie Peeples, pastor of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro, said in the news release. “Family separation is happening everywhere, not just the border. ... These raids are immoral, unnecessary and outrageously inhumane.”
Glencie Rhedrick, pastor of the First Baptist Church-West in Charlotte, said President Donald Trump’s administration “cannot continue to use the language of unity, when it desires to build a wall to separate families.”
Officials with El Pueblo said they have joined with grassroots organizations and nonprofits across North Carolina in an effort to persuade state and federal elected leaders to eliminate ICE.
The advocacy group said “we stand in solidarity with immigrants who have been targeted in an unfair and unjust system.”
El Pueblo also encouraged supporters and family members who have been affected by the arrests in Sanford to attend a meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 901 N. Franklin Drive, Sanford.
Immigration attorneys from El Centro Hispano will be available to provide free or low-cost legal assistance.