The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association is opposing House Bill 370, a measure that would force state law enforcement officers to honor voluntary Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain people who are believed to be in the U.S. unlawfully.
The Association asked GOP lawmakers to put the bill on hold earlier this week to work on a compromise, but their request was ignored and the measure is set to be voted on today on the House floor. The group released a memo ahead of today’s vote outlining their objections.
“House Bill 370 would compel duly elected sheriffs to participate in a voluntary federal law enforcement program,” it states. “The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association opposes such mandate. The people of each county, as reflected by the decision of their elected sheriff, should retain the ability to decide which lawful method they will utilize in complying with existing federal and state law. Just as the Association opposes any state law requirement to participate in the ICE detainer program, it would also oppose legislation prohibiting sheriffs from participating in the ICE detainer program.”
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.
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. ICE helped Republican lawmakers draft the bill, but they would not return requests from the Sheriff’s Association to work with them, according information given at a House Rules committee meeting Monday.
Several of the impacted sheriffs spoke out that same meeting. They took issue with their categorization by Republicans as “sanctuary sheriffs” and criticized their fear tactics. It was also pointed out at the meeting that lawmakers never talked to any of the impacted sheriffs — only ICE.
The Sheriffs’ Association stated in its memo that it opposes illegal immigration and that it supports enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration.
“The Association supports cooperation between sheriffs and all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies,” the letter adds. “However, it is an unwise encroachment on the lawful responsibility of the sheriff, who serves as the ‘keeper of the jail,’ to mandate how this cooperation should occur. Additionally, allowing for a ‘private enforcement’ court action is unwise and would likely instill a ‘chilling effect’ on sheriffs when deciding how to best carry out the duties of their office.”
Read the full letter below. The House returns at 3:05 p.m. to take votes.