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Tom Campbell: ICE goes fishing

Writer

Tom Campbell

When President Trump visited North Carolina he assured our state that the federal checkbook would be opened and that we would get almost anything we wanted from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. We’re pretty good at spotting political hyperbole but still hope these promises are fulfilled. FEMA recently transferred $10 million in funds designated for emergency response to ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement). FEMA officials denied that disaster response money was transferred.   

But FEMA wasn’t the only program moving funds to ICE. NBC News reports that some $169 million has been transferred, including $29 million from the Coast Guard and more than $34 million from several TSA programs. Why and for what purpose?

We don’t much believe in coincidence, especially when evidence suggests otherwise. Begin with the 19 indictments handed down in Wilmington of foreign nationals who allegedly voted illegally in the 2016 N.C. elections. Days later, the Justice Department subpoenaed, on behalf of ICE, as many as 20 million documents from state and 44 local election boards, going back as far as eight years.   

Our State Board of Elections protested not only the timing, but also the motive behind these subpoenas. DOJ relented and delayed the deadline for responding until January. The elections board also requested that our attorney general file a motion to quash the subpoenas. Vice Chairman Joshua Malcolm said the requests were “overly broad, unreasonable, vague, and clearly impacts significant interests of our voters.” Historically whenever there was any indication of voting impropriety, he said, the state board has asked the U.S Attorney’s Office for investigation. 

Gerry Cohen, former legal counsel to the legislature, called this a “fishing expedition.” There might be justification for such an unprecedented request if we were given some indication of potential fraud or irregular voting procedures, but an ICE spokesman said he couldn’t comment.

We don’t want anyone who is not supposed to vote casting ballots in our elections; however, an extensive study of the 2016 election — instigated by our Republican governor and legislature and conducted by our elections board — found only 500 ineligible votes cast from among 4.8 million statewide ballots. That’s not enough to influence any election.

This is part of an ongoing political agenda from an administration that has made it clear it doesn’t like immigrants. The subpoenas were filed in Eastern Carolina because the president has a base of support there. 

If ICE can substantiate the need for further investigation, perhaps a test of records in a small number of counties could prove or disprove the justification for more. But not in 44 counties all at once. Absent further evidence, this is nothing more than a politically motivated ICE fishing expedition.

Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of “NC SPIN.”

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