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NC lawmakers failed to enact anti-immigration legislation, so now U.S. Congressmen will try

Pictured from left are U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and U.S. Representatives Dan Bishop, Ted Budd and Richard Hudson. They are all North Carolina Republicans.

North Carolina legislative Republicans couldn’t pass a law forcing sheriffs to honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold people in jail, so now a group of U.S. congressmen from the state is introducing federal legislation to try and get the job done.

Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representatives Dan Bishop (R-NC-9), Ted Budd (R-NC-13) and Richard Hudson (R-NC-8) introduced the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act today, which would “clarify” ICE’s detainer authority and force local law enforcement to comply with their requests to hold people in jail for them to pick up.

The measure would also “incentivize cooperation between law enforcement agencies and DHS through the reimbursement of certain detention, technology, and litigation-related costs,” according to a news release.

“North Carolinians are rightfully disturbed that a handful of local sheriffs are putting politics ahead of public safety by implementing reckless sanctuary policies that release dangerous criminals back into our communities and make it harder for federal law enforcement to do their jobs,” said Tillis in the release. “I am proud to introduce this legislation to eliminate the excuse sheriffs are using to justify why they ignore detainer requests made by [the Department of Homeland Security]. By clarifying their authority and incentivizing cooperation, we can better enforce our nation’s immigration laws and keep North Carolinians safe from dangerous criminals.”

An ICE detainer is a request for local law enforcement to hold individuals they believe are not lawful citizens in jail or prison for up to 48 hours until the federal agency can take custody and begin deportation proceedings. The individuals targeted by detainer requests are typically otherwise eligible for release from jail or prison.

The detainer requests are not judicial orders signed by any court official, and they are not arrest warrants that require any kind of finding of probable cause. Because they are requests, local law enforcement can choose whether to enforce them or not, and most urban areas across the state have chosen to only work with ICE as much as the law requires (which means not volunteering to honor those requests or any others from the federal agency).

Republicans in the General Assembly tried to address the lack of voluntary cooperation among urban sheriffs in the state by passing House Bill 370, legislation that would have punished law enforcement that didn’t honor ICE detainer requests. It was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper and lawmakers have not attempted to override that outcome.

According to the news release from U.S. Republican congressmen, the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act specifically:

  • Gives explicit authority to the arresting federal, state, tribal, or local law enforcement agency to maintain custody of an illegal immigrant for a period not to exceed 48 hours to permit assumption of custody by the DHS, upon the issuance of a detainer.
  • Allows the federal government to enter into agreements with the arresting law enforcement agency to indemnify these agencies against wrongful detention claims by third parties which resulted from a detainer issued without reason to believe the individual is a removable illegal immigrant. Indemnification will not extend to claims relating to negligence or willful misconduct.
  • Makes jurisdictions ineligible for reimbursement of detention costs if they are certified by the DHS Secretary as being non-compliant with ICE.
  • Jurisdictions that are deemed non-compliant by the DHS Secretary will not receive priority when being considered for funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and when benefiting from the 1033 and 1122 programs.

They are seven newly-elected African-American sheriffs who have said they are targeted by anti-immigration legislation because of their political ideologies. They have said they aren’t breaking any laws and are focused on public safety for everyone, not just citizens.

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