Lawmakers move forward with anti-immigration measure forcing sheriffs to work with ICE

North Carolina House Judiciary members voted 17-9 along party lines to advance a bill that would require state law enforcement to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests — something that is not even required by federal law.

A “detainer” from ICE 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.

GOP lawmakers took direction Wednesday from President Donald Trump when they presented House Bill 370 to committee members and the public by spreading fear about “criminal immigrants” and discussing how difficult some sheriffs across the state were making it for ICE agents to do their jobs.

Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), one of the bill sponsors, told the committee that people shouldn’t have to beg sheriffs for protection, but then he admitted a short time later that most of the sheriffs across the state already honor ICE detainers and have been doing so for a long time. HB370 is just a mechanism to force the hands of the few who aren’t, and who were elected on platforms promising they wouldn’t.

The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association is not taking a position on the bill, according to information presented at the meeting. Several members of the public spoke against the bill and highlighted the dangers of fear-mongering in immigrant communities, which would erode trust between victims of crime and the law enforcement officers who are supposed to help them.

“This bill is essentially a show-me-your-papers law forcing sheriffs deputies to become immigration agents,” said Sejal Zota, legal director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

She added that the bill would create an unfunded mandate forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for detaining immigrants on behalf of ICE. She said lawmakers kept talking about how difficult it is for ICE agents to do their job, but the public is worried about whether HB370 will make it harder for local agencies to do their job.

No one spoke in favor of the bill during public comment. Committee Chair Rep. Ted Davis Jr. (R-New Hanover) refused to answer questions from the public and said he did not anticipate talking with them.

Rep. Christy Clark (D-Mecklenburg) told committee members she thought it spoke volumes that none of the public there showed support for the bill and that she has been hearing from constituents who are worried about its implications. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff is one who has been outspoken about his relationship with ICE, and he has put limits on how much his office works with the federal agency.

HB370 would punish law enforcement that didn’t honor ICE detainer requests with a civil penalty – $1,000-$1,500 for the first offense and $25,000-$25,500 for each subsequent offense (and every day an agency is out of compliance). The measure will now be referred to the House State and Local Government Committee.

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