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Opinion | Bill to Override Sheriffs on Immigration Enforcement is Dangerous and Undemocratic

Credit: iStock

by Carol Moreno Cifuentes, NC Newsline
May 10, 2023

What determines who knows best how to keep our communities safe? Is it a mandate from voters to prioritize certain policies? Is it expertise in law enforcement leadership?

Over the last four years, voters in each of North Carolina’s counties have expressed their democratic will and selected sheriffs across the state that they trust to keep our communities safe. The winning candidates were chosen by the people based on the policies that they campaigned on: constituents evaluated their priorities and platforms and made the decision to elect the candidate who could best protect their families. Now, some state legislators are unhappy with these very same policies and are attempting to block them through House Bill 10, a blunt instrument that would force every single county to expend local taxpayer resources on federal immigration enforcement.

Mecklenburg is the second most populous county in the state, and since 2019, it has overwhelmingly supported elected officials who have limited the county’s voluntary collaboration with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sheriff Garry McFadden campaigned on ending his opponent’s agreement to collaborate with ICE, and won a decisive victory. He and other like-minded sheriffs made a compelling case to voters that the best way to keep their communities safe was by electing law enforcement leaders who understand that community safety requires that all residents be able to trust law enforcement.

Along with 10 other sheriffs representing 40% of the state’s population, McFadden has now written to the General Assembly outlining his concerns over the substantial administrative burdens and Fourth Amendment implications of HB10, not to mention the significant public safety risk associated with the bill: “As Sheriffs of North Carolina, elected by their constituents to provide for the public safety of our counties… we take seriously our duties and responsibilities to the people of North Carolina and we must be permitted to set local law enforcement priorities. We respectfully ask that you let us do just that.” 

North Carolina voters placed their trust in the sheriffs that they democratically elected to keep them safe, and the General Assembly is attempting to strip away their power to do so. The people expressed their will, and the General Assembly is trying to overturn it. Is this what’s going to happen every time there’s a local policy that a state legislator from hundreds of miles away doesn’t care for? Is there going to be legislation to erode the power of every local elected official who does something that the General Assembly doesn’t like? HB10 not only sets a dangerous precedent for the political future of our state, but it also makes our communities less safe. Tell your legislator to let our sheriffs do the jobs that we hired them to do.

NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus 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.