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NC Senate Republicans advance bill forcing law enforcement cooperation with ICE

Credit: iStock

by Ahmed Jallow, NC Newsline
April 30, 2024

Republicans in the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would require cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

North Carolina sheriffs are already required under current state law to try and determine the legal status of people they arrest and inform U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, current law doesn’t require them to honor ICE “detainer requests,” which ask local authorities to hold someone believed to be in the country illegally for up to 48 hours while federal agents pick them up.

House Bill 10 would change that.

If it becomes law, the bill will require all 100 sheriffs in the state to notify ICE if they are unable to determine the legal status of a person charged with certain high-level offenses. It would force sheriffs to honor ICE requests to detain individuals suspected of being in the country illegally for up to 48 hours.

During Tuesday’s meeting, several immigration rights groups and advocates spoke out against the bill, telling lawmakers that the bill raised constitutional concerns.

“HB10 will not make North Carolina safer. Instead, this bill will interfere with decisions about local resources and priorities, expose sheriffs and counties to expensive lawsuits for constitutional violations, and weaken community trust in law enforcement,” said Veronica Aguilar, an immigrant rights advocate with El Pueblo.

“By forcing sheriffs to collaborate with ICE, it will make people in our community distrust law enforcement even more and prefer not to report crimes or cooperate with police investigations for fear of deportation. It will make everyone less safe,” she added.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, a longtime supporter of GOP legislation on ICE cooperation, spoke in favor of the bill at Tuesday’s meeting, saying that it was about “protecting our state and protecting our citizens.”

The bill, which passed the House during the 2023 legislative session, is seen in large part as aimed at several sheriffs elected in 2018. These sheriffs, representing largely Democratic counties, were elected on platforms that criticized the immigration policies being pursued at the time by the Trump administration. Many argued that detaining individuals on immigration charges who would not ordinarily take up jail space is both a burdensome expense and an action that tends to discourage cooperation from immigrant communities in law enforcement.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Senate Judiciary committee also approved an amendment to the bill that allows anyone, including law enforcement, to file a complaint with the North Carolina attorney general if they believe sheriffs or jail administrators are not complying with the bill’s requirements. The committee also approved an amendment to move the bill’s implementation date to July 1, 2024.  

“Instead of prioritizing important issues for North Carolina, like passing the state budget, members of the Senate are rushing to pass an anti-immigrant bill like HB10, to force all sheriffs in the state to collaborate with ICE, under the false premise that immigrants are a threat to public safety when in reality they are critical to the state’s economy,” said a statement by the local non-profit organization El Pueblo.   

The bill may come up for a full Senate vote this week, possibly as early as Thursday. 

NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Rob Schofield for questions: Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.