GOP lawmakers want to take law enforcement out of the hands of, well, law enforcement.
Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) spent more than an hour Monday presenting House Bill 370 and answering and dodging questions about the anti-immigration measure that would force state law enforcement to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests to hold individuals believed to be unlawfully in the U.S.
The bill ultimately was given a favorable report along a divided voice vote in the House Rules Committee, despite multiple requests to slow it down for a week or two so the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association could work out a compromise. It was also given the favorable report over the objections of those impacted sheriffs in the state, who all showed up for public comment and who all took issue with misinterpreted facts and the fear tactics presented at the meeting. They also said lawmakers never reached out to them before or during the creation of HB370.
The bill will be heard Wednesday on the House floor.
Sheriffs currently have the discretion — per federal law — to honor the detainer requests or not, particularly because they’re not judicial warrants signed by any judge, which raises Fourth Amendment concerns. Most of the sheriffs across the state honor those requests, but there’s been a handful of Black sheriffs elected to urban cities specifically on platforms to stop voluntary cooperation with ICE.
Hall said it didn’t matter what those voters elected their sheriffs for — he believes they are shirking their duties by not cooperating with ICE and voluntarily honoring their requests, and that puts the public in danger.
HB370 would completely eliminate sheriffs’ discretion with immigration enforcement, force them to honor ICE detainer requests and punish them with monetary fines if they fall out of compliance. Hall said ICE helped lawmakers create the bill.
“At the end of the day, this is about public safety — it’s as simple as that,” Hall said. “These sanctuary sheriffs are simply putting partisan politics ahead of public safety. That’s the reality, can’t escape it.”
The sheriffs who showed up for public comment took issue with being called “sanctuary sheriffs,” and they had more than a few words for the GOP lawmakers sponsoring the bill.
“I am an African American sheriff, negro sheriff, Black sheriff — I serve people in the county, the human race,” said Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers. “I’m not a sanctuary sheriff, I’m not a anything that you want to call it, but I do want you to understand something: the people of Guilford County is who I serve, all people, all of them, and I will continue to follow the rules and regulations the way I am supposed to. To tell me that I am putting the citizens of Guilford County in harm when I ran for this seat, you need to fact check, and I sincerely mean it.”
He added that he hoped lawmakers in the room would approach the issue with greater heart and humanity.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, who has been attacked by ICE for changing the way his office cooperates with the federal agency, expressed frustration that the bill sponsors never even talked to him about immigration.
“You’ve never spoken to me; you’ve never even called me,” he said. “You listen to one thing, you listen to ICE.”
He added that he is a 38-year veteran of North Carolina and took offense after a long homicide investigative career keeping the streets and his community safe that lawmakers would accuse him of letting a dangerous immigrant out of jail. He and his family live in the same community; he wouldn’t do that, he said.
McFadden also took issue with the “sanctuary sheriff” remark, and he reiterated that ICE detainers are not official judicial warrants — he doesn’t release anybody unless a judge says to release them.
“If you want my people to hold these people in jail, bring me a warrant, not a detainer, because if I wanted just to hold somebody for a murder, I could call another city and say, ‘can you detain him for a minute and let me sign a consent to search,'” he said. “All we are doing is asking ICE simply to do this: follow the rules, bring me a piece of paper and I’ll hold them.”
He added that committee members were misinformed by scare tactics and “sweet talking” and invited them to come into his jail and to talk to all the affected sheriffs working with ICE about the real facts.
“Don’t go just to ICE, because ICE surely came for me, and if I have to come for them to stand my ground, that’s what I will do,” McFadden said.
Several sheriffs spoke and members of the Sheriff’s Association, which doesn’t yet have a stance on the bill, because the organization hasn’t had time vet the measure.
There was a lot of debate about the bill before the voice vote to give it a favorable report. Ultimately the GOP lawmakers won out. Hall, in particular, completely opposed postponing voting on the bill to wait for a compromise.
He said no bill is perfect, but HB370 is right where it needs to be, and lawmakers needed to move ASAP to force law enforcement to work with ICE because it was a community safety issue.