In one video that has gone viral, ICE agents can be seen surrounding Bear Creek Arsenal and checking the identification of anyone trying to leave the property, including Sanford resident Christian Canales, who filmed the video. Image: Courtesy of Christian Canales
At least thirty people were arrested and up to seventy persons detained at Bear Creek Arsenal the morning of February 5, 2019, during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workplace raid that started there at 8 am and possibly at other Sanford, North Carolina factories as well.
The presence of ICE was visible on the roads on Tuesday, February 5, with clearly marked vehicles setting up several checkpoints in this rural community located 35 miles south of Chapel Hill in North Carolina’s Piedmont region.
Next to them other vehicles such as the white “Factory Outlet” van were positioned, perhaps in order to haul people away.
A day later a twenty-seven year old, who live streamed from the parking lot of Bear Creek Arsenal and spoke to the press, was arrested on the charge of “communication threats,” as reports began to come in about more widespread immigration arrests occurring in other Piedmont cities such as Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte in particular, where up to 30 people were picked up from ten traffic stops and at least one worksite.
Widespread immigration arrests occurring in other Piedmont cities such as Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte in particular, where up to 30 people were picked up from ten traffic stops and at least one worksite.
Spanish-language newspaper chain QuéPasaNoticias reported receiving many calls and messages on Tuesday morning calculating about seventy arrests, while local activist group AlertaMigratoriaNC issued alerts about widespread checkpoints and raids at Bear Creek Arsenal and other factories at the beginning of the work day.
ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox confirmed thirty arrests to local news outlets WRAL-TV and The News Observer, preferring not to specify the facility they took place at. At 1:30 pm, the Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter issued a statement saying “there were approximately thirty individuals taken into custody” this morning, adding that they “did assist with this operation upon request by federal officials.”
Bear Creek Arsenal later confirmed that arrests were made at their Sanford facility on account of “identity theft or fraudulent information” and that they had “cooperated with Homeland Security (the government department overseeing ICE) during this lengthy process.”
‘Identity theft’ - ICE’s rationale for the arrests - is generally thought to refer to criminals that make use of someone’s personal data to make purchases or empty bank accounts. ICE itself differentiates between “identity fraud” and “identity theft,” with the latter denoting a crime that involves actual impersonation of another person, “living or dead.”
More importantly, in 2009 in the case of Flores-Figueroa v. United States, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that a Mexican immigrant was not guilty of “aggravated identity theft” (which incurs a mandatory two-year prison sentence) because the government in charge of providing the burden of proof, showing he had knowingly stolen the identity of another person, failed to do so.
But at Bear Creek people are being accused of using falsified documents to work low-paid jobs and pay into someone else’s social security and other benefits packages, or, more likely, directly into the coffers of the federal government. Since taxes are already deducted at the source by the employer before the employee is paid, they represent extra revenue for the government if a tax refund remains unclaimed the following year.
Regardless, it is need rather than criminal intent that is the main motive for such actions, as “Hellen” wrote in the comments section of QuéPasaNoticias: “Hay personas que por necesidad trabajan con documentos legales de otras personas ☹” (“There are people who have to work using other people’s legal documents out of pure necessity “☹”).
Christian Canales went to the Bear Creek Arsenal plant to meet some friends who had called for his help. The officer handed him back his pink and white North Carolina driver’s license. “This guy’s coming in. He’s good,” the officer radioed. “Yeah, for real,” Christian said.
Back in his car Christian streamed his encounter live on Facebook. Switching easily between fluent English and Spanish, he warned others to steer clear of the area. “A fucking country built on fucking immigrants and y’all wanna deport the people who are working their asses off,” he commented bitterly while driving out of the parking lot.
Even though he left the area, Christian was later arrested on charges of “communication threats” and non-impaired driving with a revoked license. His court date was scheduled for February 18 with a bond set at $5,000.
Screenshot courtesy AlertaMigratoriaNC
Bear Creek Arsenal is a company that manufactures firearms. The main product of this self-proclaimed “family company” is the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, which Rolling Stone magazine called “the mass shooter’s weapon of choice.” Adam Lanza, James Holmes, the San Bernardino killers and Omar Mateen all used AR-15’s, albeit the models were made by different manufacturers. The AR-15 was also used by Nikolas Cruz to shoot and kill seventeen students and injure another seventeen at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida about a year ago, on February 14, 2018.
Designed in 1956 as a military weapon, the AR-15 was banned under the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act. Also known as the Assault Weapons Ban, the act was instituted in 1994 under President Bill Clinton but allowed to expire ten years later in 2004 under President George W. Bush. New Jersey still maintains a ban on this assault rifle.
Factories in Sanford were not the only places in the area where ICE was active. On Tuesday morning QuéPasa reported that six men were arrested in three separate incidences while on their way to construction jobs in Raleigh, the state capital located about 40 miles from Sanford. One of the men’s wife only found out about his arrest when he was finally allowed to call her back in order to ask her to inform his employers that his van full of equipment had been left on one of the city’s main arteries. Although he needs daily doses of medication for his diabetes and cholesterol, his wife was informed that he was being transported to Georgia.
To see sheriffs work in tandem with ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency) stands in marked contrast to trends in other areas of the country.
She explained tearfully: “Él no tenía nada pendiente con la ley. Ha vivido 13 años en este país sin cometer delitos. No tiene vicios ni nada, él solo se ha dedicado a trabajar.”(“He never had issues with the law. He’s lived in this country for thirteen years without committing any crime. He has no bad habits whatsoever, all he’s ever done is work.”)
To see sheriffs work in tandem with ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency) stands in marked contrast to trends in other areas of the country where legal frameworks have been instituted to specifically prevent this type of cooperation for the sake of public safety. In 2013 California and Connecticut wrote the Trust Act, which the ACLU of Northern California deems “a minimum standard,” in order to preserve the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities, as well as restrict the diversion of meagre police resources from fighting violent crime to enforcing immigration violations.
Immigrants will not speak to police officers investigating violent crimes if they are afraid the police will turn them over to ICE, and police departments do not have the time and money to spend on immigration as they struggle to keep communities safe.
In the same vein and also on Tuesday, the nearby Forsyth County’s Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr announced at a press conference that he will terminate his contract with ICE, which allows the government agency to hold immigrants in county jails.
“What this means is the sheriff’s office will no longer house immigration violators,” Kimbrough said. “The sheriff’s office is not an extension, and will never be an extension, of immigration services. We are not helping ICE.”
'The ID is the most important solution to all of these problems. We have to have IDs. We pay taxes whenever we go to the store; we deserve this'.
As recently as two years ago this seemed to be the direction Sanford was going in as well. In November 2015 the city, where out of a population of 30,000 one in four is Latinx, finished a three year long project entitled “Building Integrated Communities” aimed at improving immigrant-police relations. The project’s findings criticized immigration checkpoints and the lack of language services, and recommended the provision of valid identification cards to undocumented immigrants.
In a quote from the project’s summary, a participant explains through a translator, “The ID is the most important solution to all of these problems. We have to have IDs. We pay taxes whenever we go to the store; we deserve this. It solves a lot of the other problems. We can’t live here without an ID. Our children are given IDs when they go to school; how come we can’t get IDs?”
Several businesses in Sanford closed on Tuesday, with scribbled and typed signs hastily taped to their front doors. A teacher who declined to be named told the Univision 40 TV that parents had already cancelled teacher conferences for that afternoon. Another local teacher lamented the trauma inflicted on children when losing a parent in this way.
Legalized discrimination is the third step on the ladder of prejudice, described by psychologist Gordon Allport in 1954, following the acceptance of hate speech and social exclusion, and the fifth step on the road to genocide as developed in 1996 by Gregory Stanton of “Genocide Watch,” after the creation of special militias and broadcasting “polarizing propaganda”. Tuesday’s State of the Union address, in which US President Trump declared, “Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens”, is a perfect example of this.
Two major studies conducted last year found that statistically, undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens and that the presence of undocumented immigrants may actually decrease crime rates. The first study, published in the May issue of Criminology, contends that “the relationship between undocumented immigration and violent crime is generally negative.” The second study, published a month later by the libertarian think-tank Cato Institute, was entitled “The White House’s Misleading & Error Ridden Narrative on Immigrants and Crime.”
Two major studies conducted last year found that statistically, undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens
Reverend William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign protested on Wednesday evening in downtown Raleigh, including justice for immigrants in their demands for a #MoralAgenda. Moreover, if you want to support those detained and/or disagree with the arrest of Christian Canales, AlertaMigratoriaNC invites you to call Sheriff Tracy Carter at (919) 775 5531 and ask for their release.
(*) After the writing of this article Christian Canales was released once the bond was payed thanks to donations from the community.