Leaders in Durham, Raleigh and Orange County have joined other politicians from across the country calling for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be abolished.
The open letter had been signed by 115 elected officials as of Tuesday evening, and more signatures were being added.
"We are outraged at the recent actions of the administration, which have separated over 2,000 families who came to this country fleeing violence and seeking asylum, only to be detained and cruelly and capriciously separated," the letter says. "We fundamentally believe that our country can and should be a place where people seeking freedom and opportunity can find a home.
"In the last two weeks, we have seen countless stories about babies and children being ripped from the arms of their mothers and fathers so that their parents can be funneled, without due process of law, through criminal prosecutions off of which private prison companies stand to make millions of dollars," it continues.
The Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy, later reversed, separated families at the border with Mexico. The administration has missed the court-ordered deadline to reunite young children with their parents.
Local signers of the call to abolish ICE, as of Tuesday night, included Durham Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson, Durham City Council member Charlie Reece, Durham County Board of Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs, Durham County Commissioner Brenda Howerton and Danielle Adams, Durham soil and water conservation supervisor.
In Raleigh and Wake County, only one elected official so far had signed the letter: Raleigh City Council member Nicole Stewart.
In Orange County, 11 elected officials had signed: Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Carrboro Aldermen Damon Seils, Jacquelyn Gist, Sammy Slade, Barbara M. Foushee and Bethany Chaney; Chapel Hill Town Council member Karen Stegman; Hillsborough Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Weaver and Hillsborough Commissioner Matt Hughes. Orange County commissioners who signed it are Mark Marcoplos and Mark Dorosin.
"Our residents don’t deserve to live in constant fear that federal agents will come to their door, take away their parents or their children, and imprison or deport them for the ‘crime’ of seeking a better life for themselves and their families,” said Johnson in an announcement sent by Seils.
“ICE is not sacrosanct, and I do not see how it can be reformed. It must be disbanded," Weaver said.
Earlier this year, ICE arrested at least 25 immigrants in the Triangle and others across North Carolina it said were in the country illegally. U.S. Rep. David Price criticized the raids and met with the families of two men arrested in Orange County. .Durham City Council member Javiera Caballero urged residents to be vigilant and warn others when ICE was in the area.
Outside the Triangle, other North Carolina politicians who signed the statement are Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Greensboro City Council member Michelle Kennedy and N.C. Rep. Susan C. Fisher (Buncombe).
The letter applauds a plan by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin to introduce legislation to abolish ICE.
"As one of our newest federal agencies, ICE spends more time destroying communities than it does keeping communities safe while violating basic civil and human rights," it says. "The experiment that is ICE has failed, and must be ended as soon as possible ... Now, more than ever, our country faces the greatest moral test of our time; we can choose to be complicit in this humanitarian crisis, or we can step up and end family separation and mass incarceration."
The full letter can be read at electedstoabolishice.com.