Commentary

Editorial: General Assembly should ditch its latest anti-immigrant scheme

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the lead editorial featured in the Charlotte Observer (“Don’t force NC sheriffs to bow to ICE”). In it the Observer rightfully derides the latest version of legislation that would seek to force North Carolina sheriffs to comply with detainer requests issued by Trump’s immigration officials.

A bill that would force N.C. sheriffs to more fully cooperate with federal immigration officials not only is potentially harmful to the sheriffs and the communities they serve; it’s based on a faulty premise.

House Bill 370 would compel local law enforcement agencies to honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally. Some N.C. sheriffs, including those in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, have ignored or vowed to ignore these “detainer” requests from ICE, which can keep suspects in jail up to 48 hours beyond their release date….

The bill also could harm North Carolina’s cities and towns, particularly immigrant communities whose members already are hesitant to call the sheriff or police when they need help. Said Buncombe County sheriff Quentin Miller in a statement Friday: “If ICE comes into our community and creates division and mistrust when we need cooperation and mutual understanding between our immigrant and minority communities and local law enforcement, then we are all worse off for it.”

In response to the argument that sheriffs are somehow culpable for releasing people who could be a danger to the community, the editorial puts it this way:

Local magistrates, along with the Superior Court and District Court judges who hire and supervise them, can and should develop or revisit pre-trial release guidelines that give magistrates and judges discretion over if and how someone is released from jail. Those guidelines could involve notifying ICE officials in situations that might be particularly hazardous to communities and individuals.

Instead, NC Republicans are intent on a bill that interferes in how sheriffs try to navigate the delicate landscape of federal immigration laws, and ICE is misleading North Carolinians about its necessity.

The editorial might have added (as former Guilford County Republican sheriff B.J. Barnes pointed out the other day) that there’s also a little matter of the Constitution when it comes to holding people based on mere requests from ICE:

“What I am and what the attorneys are is VERY STRONG on the Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment. A few of you in prior post have said the Constitution does not apply to those here illegally, that is not the case. It is applicable to everyone on American soil, no matter how they got here.

Now the legislation proposed is the same as the rulings put out by ICE that says the Sheriffs office who holds prisoners longer than law allows without proper judicial paperwork, ie warrant will be immune from civil liability meaning you the taxpayer gets sued. It has already happened across the country and others have lost millions. They, being legislators or ICE, cannot protect a county from a lawsuit if they break the law.”

Lawmakers need to ditch this dangerous and potentially unconstitutional scheme.

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