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Immigration And The Cape Fear Region

The images of children being separated from their parents at the U.S. – Mexico border have been all over the media in recent weeks. As a result, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 to stop the separations. There is a debate over immigration policy in this country.  That policy hits close to home.

“Families United, Families United…”

Immigration, family separation, and ICE were front and center at Saturday’s rally on the steps of Thalian Hall downtown.

The Families Belong Together protest here was one of dozens held across the state and country.

Tammy Perez de Pacini is the co-owner of Folks Café on Princess Street and an immigrant from Ecuador. She says that many people are too scared to go back to their native countries.

“I cannot go back to a country that I will be dead or I go to see my kids dying of starvation. But this situation, it's make to feel people scared. Latinos were targeted to scare every other immigrant, but you know what? You guys did great. You show him that you are going all going to allow this, that you are behind the immigrants.”

“My name is Helen Tarokic. I'm an immigration attorney. I'm a North Carolina board certified immigration law specialist… based in Wilmington, North Carolina.”

For more than five years, Tarokic has been working with Mexican national Christian Ayala-Lopez as he tried to gain legal status. He lives in Southport. A little over a week ago he was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.

“Much of my work as an immigration attorney has always been to avoid suing because it's expensive and it puts people through stress and our clients are already under tremendous stress whether they’re corporations or individuals. But now we have gotten to the point where it looks like for every little thing we are going to have to lodge a lawsuit and I've got one that we filed on Friday that we're waiting for a hearing on right now for Christian Ayala-Lopez.”

But Ayala-Lopez is now back in Mexico. On Tuesday, ICE confirmed to WHQR that he had been returned to his native county.

She wants ICE held accountable.

“Well, I know some people are calling for dissolving ICE or melting ICE or abolishing ICE, and as much as I do love those endearing terms, I do think that we have to have some type of enforcement, but I do also believe that ICE -- number one -- needs to be wearing body cams at all times.”

“Second, accountability. So when we file a habeas or we file a motion to reopen, ICE needs to be told you cannot retaliate and try to circumvent those lawful procedures.”

Democratic State Representative Deb Butler of District 18 says this really is a local issue.

“You know, any area that has a robust construction concern or an agricultural concern is going to have migrant workers and many of those are undocumented. They do the yeoman's work often. The stuff that you know, many of us are unwilling or unable to do. And so yes, they are among us. They are neighbors and friends and are providing a very valuable service to our community.”

U.S. Representative David Rouzer did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Nor did U.S. Senator Richard Burr. Both Republicans did make statements on June 20, echoing their support for President Trump’s enforcement charging those for crossing the border illegally. Both also say they hope the House and Senate will produce a bipartisan bill with meaningful reforms that can be sent to the President for his signature.

Last week, a compromise immigration bill negotiated between different GOP factions was voted down in the House of Representatives.