The House Rules Committee voted to concur with Senate amendments to House Bill 370 and send it to the House floor today. As you will recall, HB 370 is the dangerous, Trump administration-inspired bill that would force local sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A final floor vote could happen this afternoon.
As we observed back in late June, the bill will, if it becomes law, endanger public safety:
Simply put, when immigrant communities lose faith in local law enforcement and come to see it as an arm of ICE, they greatly reduce the rate at which they report crimes and cooperate with local officers. Bill proponents have attempted to undercut this argument by highlighting a handful of isolated incidents in which individuals released by sheriffs have committed serious crimes. The trouble with this reasoning, however, is that it elevates anecdotes over hard data.
That’s why representatives of the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence authored a joint letter this spring expressing their deep concerns about the proposal.
As the letter pointed out:
“Victims who do not have documented status are already threatened with deportation on a regular basis by abusers who are aware of their status. If HB 370 passes, abusers and traffickers would have a new weapon to strengthen these threats and hold them over victims’ heads when a victim is trying to call 911 for help. Such reports – or the threat of such reports – would be an extremely powerful weapon for abusers.”
The letter goes on to note that, as they are for many citizens, domestic violence situations can be enormously complex. While they may need protection, many victims often depend on their abusers for basic needs – including support of their children – and therefore do not want them deported.
Add to these basic public safety concerns the distraction from more serious law enforcement matters that the constant entanglement with immigration enforcement will inevitably cause –indeed, many immigrants will find themselves held without bail for minor offenses, and even driving violations – and the proposal looks that much worse.
The bottom line: As it is with the vast majority of the Trump anti-immigrant agenda, HB 370 is not about promoting public safety; it is about advancing a xenophobic political agenda rooted in fear and racism. A promised veto from Gov. Cooper will be welcome and should be sustained.