Sen. Tillis proposes bill to make it clearly legal for authorities to hold illegal immigrants in jail

Updated: Oct. 25, 2019 at 7:01 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WBTV) - Friday afternoon, Senator Thom Tillis, along with several other republicans representatives proposed new legislation to stop policies in sanctuary cities, including Charlotte.

They called the bill “The Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act” and it would clarify ICE detainer authority for federal, state and local authorities, meaning it would be clearly legal for those law enforcment agencies to hold illegal immigrants.

Immigration Customs and Enforcement issue detainers on certain inmates in local jails that they say are illegal immigrants. They issue detainers, asking the local agencies to hold the person in jail for up to 48 hours so ICE agents can take them into ICE custody. Many sheriffs have not complied with ICE detainer requests, questioning if it’s legal for state and local authorities to hold immigrants in jail past the time where they would otherwise be released.

This new bill would clearly make it legal for federal, state and local authorities to maintain custody of illegal immigrants, who were previously arrested on other charges, for up to 48 hours, even if they previously met their conditons of release. This would give time for ICE to send an agent to interview this person and possibly take them into ICE custody.

“We’re here today because of what I consider reckless sanctuary policies that have been implemented by a handful of sheriffs in the state of North Carolina," said Sen. Thom Tillis at a Friday press conference in Charlotte.

He said when sheriffs don’t cooperate with ICE detainer requests, they’re making the state less safe.

“These aren’t innocent illegals, all they did was cross the border. These are people who violated serious crimes against the state of North Carolina," said Tillis

In the past, Sheriff Garry McFadden has not honored detainer requests, saying he needs federal agencies to obtain an arrest warrant if they want him to keep people in custody.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office provided a statement Friday night.

“Sheriff McFadden’s position on this issue is well documented and he remains steadfast in his policy not to honor immigration detainers. As it pertains to the proposed legislation; Sheriff McFadden has maintained that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office will always follow the law and unless the law changes, Sheriff McFadden will continue to exercise the constitutional authority of his elected Office and will not honor immigration detainers. “

Governor Cooper weighed in Friday morning.

“I think sheriffs should be able to do what they need to do to protect their communities," said Governor Cooper.

But this new legislation from Senator Tillis would clarify detainer authority, giving federal, state and local authorities clear legal permission to hold illegal immigrants in jail, even if they’ve met their conditions of release.

“Is it fair to hold an alleged murderer, heroin trafficker, someone who’s been accused of taking indecent liberties with a child for a 48 hour period whose illegally in the country and is a deportable illegal alien,” asked Tillis. “Yeah, I think that’s fair.”

Action NC said the sheriff should be working to make the community safe, not working as an immigration agent.

“What they’re proposing is that our sheriff is to ignore the law. He is not a judge. The role of a sheriff is to enforce the law and to let people out when there time is up in jail. If the judge says he can go free, that’s the judges decision," said Hector Vaca with Action NC

The legislation would also allow the federal government to enter into contract with local authorities to compensate them for any wrongful detention claims if there were to be a lawsuit filed.

It would also reimburse compliant counties for the detention costs of those inmates held by ICE detainers.

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