Announced on Friday, the billboards come as part of a broader effort to warn communities about public safety threats. The signs include mugshots of the people, the charges they face and text that reads: “Wanted by ICE” — all on highways for drivers to see.
Similar billboards were placed in Pennsylvania, and appear to serve ICE’s effort at shaming jurisdictions that refuse to honor detainer requests on illegal immigrants. Under the people charges, ICE directly names the police department responsible for releasing them.
“Too often sanctuary policies limiting cooperation with ICE result in significant public safety concerns because they release dangerous individuals back into the community we are attempting to protect,” Tony Pham, an ICE official, said in a press release. “ICE will continue to enforce immigration laws set forth by Congress through the efforts of the men and women of ICE to remove criminal aliens and making our communities safer.”
The agency said the latest billboards feature people whom the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department released after arrest. Some of the charges included assault, two counts of second degree forcible rape and felony cocaine possession. The Charlotte police did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
When ICE placed its Pennsylvania billboards in October, it encountered criticism from former officials who accused the agency of pulling a political stunt before the election. John Amaya, former chief of staff for ICE under President Obama, told CBS News that the billboards were “beyond the pale.”
“They have shown that they are happy and eager to use ICE as a blunt force instrument in their political toolbox, but this is taking things to a whole new level,” he said.
ICE similarly came under fire for conducting at-large arrests just weeks before the election. While ICE typically targets immigrants with criminal records, it also arrests others in violation of immigration law. The agency made at least 170 at-large arrests in several major cities, it announced in October.
In FY 2019, ICE conducted 267,258 removals — up from 256,058 in fiscal year 2018. According to its annual report released last year, nearly all (91 percent) of the removed included individuals with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges at the time of arrest. Arrests, however, fell to 143,000 from 159,000.
Mass arrests are nothing new for the agency, which has been conducting targeted enforcement operations for years under President Trump. Prior to the election, ICE has also repeatedly called out jurisdictions that block cooperation with them. In January, for example, ICE called out counties in Ohio and Illinois for denying detainer requests. For Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, the agency said police denied more than 1,000 detainer requests in 2019.