RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Ahead of a Senate vote Monday night, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) criticized a bill that would require sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials or face removal from office.
“As the former top law enforcement officer in our state, I know that current law allows us to lock up and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status,” Cooper said in a prepared statement. “This bill isn’t about that–in addition to being unconstitutional, it’s about scoring political points and using fear to divide us.”
House Bill 370, which the Republican-controlled Senate is taking up, would require sheriffs to honor detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or face the possibility of being removed from office.
Several African-American sheriffs in the state’s largest counties, including Wake and Durham, ran last year on a platform of ending cooperation with ICE in an effort to build more trust among immigrants.
“Our Wake County sheriff ran on not targeting brown people and the Hispanic community. And, we voted for him,” said state Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake). “I didn’t even think that this would even go as far as it’s gone.”
Nestor Gomez, who is originally from Argentina and now lives in Raleigh, said some of his children are U.S. citizens while others are not. He said he views the bill as part of a larger attack on the immigrant community and described it as “racist.”
House Speaker Tim Moore (R) responded, “That’s simply not accurate. What this bill does is codify, is essentially codify, what has been the current practice in most of the counties around this state.”
According to ICE, when the agency makes detainer requests, it’s letting law enforcement know the agency plans to assume custody of someone who’s already been arrested and may be subject to removal from the U.S. ICE asks law enforcement agencies to hold someone for at least 48 hours past the time of their scheduled release to give ICE agents time to come and take that person into custody.
Some courts have found the requests to be unconstitutional.
Speaker Moore said, “Well, of course, this (bill) added a requirement that judicial officials weigh in about these ICE warrants.”
In an email, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox wrote:
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) places detainers on individuals who have been arrested on local criminal charges and who are suspected of being deportable, so that ICE can take custody of that person when he or she is released from local custody. When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.”
“Any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. Local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as in jurisdictions that do not cooperate with ICE the agency has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations. A consequence of ICE being forced to make more arrests on the streets is the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals that wouldn’t have been encountered had we been allowed to take custody of a criminal target within the confines of a local jail.”
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