NC House bill would require sheriffs cooperate with ICE on immigration detainers

Published: Mar. 15, 2019 at 7:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - There’s another clash looming between North Carolina state legislators and some local jurisdictions. That’s because a group of Representatives filed a bill that would force sheriffs to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on detainers.

Recently some sheriffs, like Garry McFadden in Mecklenburg County, ended their voluntary cooperation with ICE’s 287g program - meaning they no longer check inmates’ immigration status. Some lawmakers have a problem with that.

“There are impacts if lawlessness is the policy. Because of the decision of certain law enforcement officers in major counties, there will be impacts in counties other than those where those decisions are being made by individual sheriffs,” said Senator Dan Bishop of Mecklenburg. “That means people who are committing crimes here illegally should have been deported are going to be in that county and they’re going to necessarily obviously they’re going to move in and out of that county to surrounding counties, other parts of North Carolina are affected by that."

But now there’s a new bill – HB 370 –just starting to make its way through the House.

HB 370 says when a person is arrested for a crime, sheriffs have to find out the inmate’s legal status, reach out to ICE to see whether there’s a detainer request and if there is a detainer hold that inmate until ICE agents decide what they want to do with that person.

Rep. Destin Hall is a part of the group that filed HB 370. He says he listened to ICE agents to find out what issues they’re facing in the state. Rep Hall says federal immigration agents said some sheriffs in N.C. are not communicating at all with ICE. Destin says ICE told him most sheriffs are working with ICE but the concern is a handful of sheriffs in large counties.

Sen. Bishop is not one of HB 370’s sponsors but he says he supports it.

“Law enforcement ought to work cooperatively with federal immigration and to make more effective the enforcement of our immigration law,” said Bishop. “We’re talking about a uniform state policy that in my view makes absolute common sense and I think most people see it that way.”

“We opposed House Bill 370 because North Carolina voters and law enforcement leaders from across the state, including Mecklenburg County, are rejecting ICE’s anti immigrant agenda and have said quite clearly that they don’t want to use local resources towards fueling the Trump Administration’s deportation machine. This bill would require them to do just that,” said Susanna Birdsong of the ACLU NC. “It doesn’t make anyone safer. It divides our community. It fuels anti-immigrant rhetoric and it leads to families being torn apart.”

Birdsong, who the is the local ACLU’s Senior Policy Counsel, believes the new bill is “thwarting the will of the people.”

“In North Carolina, the legislature has a lot of power to do things that pre-empt local policy. We’ve seen that in a lot of other areas. The question is not necessarily for me - can they? – but should they?” said Birdsong. “And I think in a lot of other places where this has been attempted it has either failed because it has been litigated and found to be an unconstitutional practice or it ended up costing localities a lot both in terms of the cost of housing more people in jail and also localities have been held liable in court for holding people in a way that violates their due process and other constitutional rights.”

Birdsong added “the sheriff in Mecklenburg County was elected on a platform saying he was going to end 287g agreement in Mecklenburg County and end the sheriff’s office collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of the reality that that engagement with ICE has made Charlotte less safe over time and has been costly for the locality and there was an election and the people supported that position.”

Sen. Bishop says the issue needs uniformity and it’s the state’s place to do it.

“The state sets the law. The legislature establishes the law. Sheriffs don’t establish the law. They’re required to enforce the law and if they don’t want to enforce the law they can leave their posts or do something different. It’s not up to them to decide what policy is. They simply execute.”

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