In May 2019, an illegal immigrant in North Carolina tried to kill his ex-girlfriend just days after his release from prison. A month later, Democratic congressional hopeful Wiley Nickel opposed a bill that would have prevented the ordeal from happening again.
As a North Carolina state lawmaker, Nickel roughly three years ago voted against House Bill 370, which required sheriffs in the state to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers issued against illegal immigrants. Those detainers help ICE take custody of illegal immigrants when they're arrested on local charges and subsequently released on bail. Just one month before Nickel's vote, a self-described "progressive" sheriff's refusal to honor an ICE detainer prompted a violent rampage.
On May 15, 2019, police arrested 37-year-old Honduran national Luis Analberto Pineda-Anchecta—who was deported from the United States in 2006 but reentered the country illegally—after he assaulted his ex-girlfriend. One day later, ICE placed a detainer on him, which, if honored, would have kept the illegal immigrant criminal in custody. But progressive Mecklenburg County sheriff Garry McFadden ignored that detainer, and Pineda-Anchecta was free to roam the streets following his release on bond on May 17, 2019. Four days later, Pineda-Anchecta kidnapped his ex-girlfriend, tied a rope around her head to keep her quiet, told her he intended to kill her, and took her to a secluded, wooded area near a highway. The victim escaped, and Pineda-Anchecta was later sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Three years after the incident, Nickel is running to replace outgoing Republican congressman Ted Budd in North Carolina's 13th Congressional District. Nickel says he's running in part to "support law enforcement" and make sure "everyone feels welcome and safe in our communities." For the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, however, Nickel's vote on House Bill 370 did just the opposite—the association supported the bill with "high priority," arguing that it provided "an appropriate and careful balance under the Constitution for the rights of the accused and for the public safety of our communities."
Nickel did not return a request for comment. His decision to vote against the sheriffs' association-backed bill could become a flash point in his race against Republican Bo Hines, who has called to "enforce our laws, deport all criminal aliens, and save Americans from dying."
Nickel first entered the political arena in 2006, when he ran for state Senate in his native California. Nickel lost to Republican incumbent Jeff Denham by approximately 20 points, despite funneling thousands of dollars of his own money into the race and running in a district that "was carved out specifically to elect a Democrat." Nickel's own family donated to Denham's campaign before Nickel entered the race.
Nickel went on to work for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign before he launched another state Senate run in 2018, this time in North Carolina. He went on to serve two terms as a state legislator before announcing his 13th district congressional bid after Budd vacated his seat to run for U.S. Senate. North Carolina's redistricting process made the district considerably less red, prompting the Democratic Congressional Committee to add Nickel to its "competitive ‘Red to Blue' program."
Nickel will square off against Hines in November. Both candidates have raised roughly $1.7 million as of June 30.