Luigi Carannante is a no-nonsense pizzeria owner in Burlington, NC. The 44-year-old from Monte di Procida, a peninsula just outside of Naples, Italy, has run the Little Italy restaurant for the last ten years, putting in his heart, soul and up to 80 hours a week. He’s a father of eight, and his youngest has autism.
Luigi, or Gino as he is commonly known, is a U.S. citizen and registered Republican who believes in hard work, no matter what form it takes. Maybe because of his son, he has a soft spot for different abilities, employing Matt, a 37-year-old with Down’s syndrome, for two days a week for the past three years.
Until Wednesday, June 5, 2019, Gino also employed 21-year-old Juan Carlos, who arrived at the pizzeria’s back door at about 10:20am that morning to set up for the day. A friend has just dropped him off in the parking lot and he looks a little tired as he finishes last drop of water from a plastic bottle. He knocks on the steel door, the heavy kind that slams shut and locks for security, and then takes out his phone to text his arrival. The door opens and Juan Carlos, momentarily distracted by a black SUV with heavily tinted windows that suddenly pulls up, holds the door as he enters his workplace.
The security camera catches it all. A beefy bald man in civilian clothes and a thick vest with the word POLICE printed on it, rushes out of the unmarked SUV and lunges, pulling Juan Carlos out of the restaurant by the scruff of his neck, seconds before the door is about to close. He turns Juan Carlos around, and cuffs the young man’s hands, still grasping the water bottle, behind his back.
Another SUV and two sedans pull into the parking lot, blocking the way out. After he pushes Juan Carlos into the SUV, the man will take the water bottle and toss it on the ground.
“The people that we are trying to hold here are actually criminal illegal immigrants that are actually raping our citizens in many, many ways,” said Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson at a commissioners’ meeting in January 2019. Alamance County, where the town of Burlington and Little Italy restaurant are located, does not participate in the 287(g) program cooperating with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), but that’s not stopping the sheriff.
The commissioners approved a requested $2.8 million increase in the sheriff’s budget unanimously, voting 5-0. The money is almost entirely covered by the 2019 county’s contract with ICE, through which it will receive $2.3 million.
Gino was in front of the county jail, frustrated by the lack of answers he was getting as to the whereabouts of Juan Carlos. “ICE agents in reality lied to him and told him he had to sign a paper in English, that he was going to be deported anyhow. They didn’t explain anything to him. And the Alamance Sheriff’s Office is making it impossible to get a straight answer,” he complained. He vowed to obtain a lawyer on his employee’s behalf, and published the security cam’s video on his Youtube channel for all to see.
ICE Southern Region spokesperson Bryan Cox said that anyone arrested in Alamance County “would typically be transferred to one of ICE’s detention centers in Georgia,” such as CoreCivic-owned Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin. The privately-run prison, two and a half rural hours from Atlanta and a long 500 mile drive from Burlington, has the country’s highest deportation rate of 84%. Only 1% have their cases dismissed and are released. Durham teen Wildin Acosta was held there and reported maggots in his food. Immigrants at Stewart are allowed one, 1-hour visit a week, although family members report the rules are always changing. Detainees themselves maintain the facility for $1 a day.
That’s not enough to pay a lawyer even if you can find one willing to make the trip to Lumpkin. Only 6% of Stewart detainees manage to get one, according to the American Immigration Council.
Spanish-language newspaper QuéPasa and local community group Siembra NC reported 19 ICE arrests in the region this week. Siembra NC’s Juan Miranda said most of the arrests have been of people who have no criminal record. “We’re talking about kids, for example, who fled El Salvador to escape being killed, fathers going to work.”
Siembra NC is one of the following organizations that are collecting and disseminating information about ICE raids and arrests in North Carolina.
Guilford, Forsyth, Alamance, and Randolph counties
Facebook: Siembra NC
El Vínculo Hispano
Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill
800- 559- 8714
Alerta Migratoria NC
And in Lumpkin, GA, El Refugio offers a place to stay for visitors to Stewart Detention Center, and collects clothes and gift cards for family members, as well as prepares “deportation bags” for detainees who are deported with literally nothing more than the clothes on their backs.