The N.C. House of Representatives voted 63-51 to pass House Bill 370 Wednesday, which requires sheriffs to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
First filed in March, HB 370 requires confinement facilities to comply with immigration detainer requests issued by the Department of Homeland Security, which intends to assume custody of the prisoner.
It also restricts counties and cities from barring federal law enforcement officials from entering the confinement sites.
N.C. Rep. Destin Hall, R-District 87, one of the bill's primary sponsors, demonstrated his position with an example.
Hall said an undocumented immigrant in Mecklenburg County was ordered in December 2018 to be deported by a federal immigration judge because of a felony crime. The sheriff of the county did not comply and released the individual, who was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon a week after the release. Hall said they still don't know where he is.
“That’s not the way law enforcement is supposed to work in this country, and that’s why this bill has become necessary,” he said.
Hall added that the bill will terminate the noncompliance of certain sheriffs regarding immigrants.
“What’s happening is certain sheriffs, sanctuary sheriffs in certain counties, are deciding to release individuals charged with serious crimes when they don’t have to," Hall said. "You can’t dispute that, that’s the reality."
But not everyone agrees.
Raul Pinto, staff attorney for the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, said the bill may lead to the community’s distrust in law enforcement agencies.
“We know that when law enforcement is intertwined with immigration enforcement, the community, and specifically the immigrant community, loses trust in its law enforcement agencies and is less likely to report crime. And we’ve seen that in other communities throughout the country,” Pinto said.
Pinto said he thinks HB 370 is a “bad policy” because it is ignoring the will of the voters who foresaw the problems that detainers create and elected sheriffs that have vouched to not cooperate with ICE.
He also discussed how law enforcement agencies could be subject to lawsuits if they don’t comply with the detainer request voluntarily.
According to the bill, the court can impose a civil penalty up to $25,500 for each day any city, county or law enforcement agency that fails to comply with a federal order. Citizens also have the right to file a declaratory or injunctive relief action against the agency.
A declaratory or injunctive relief action means the court’s judgment declares the status of the controversy.
The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association opposes the voluntary federal law enforcement program that elected sheriffs should comply with.
“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,” NCSA said in a statement Wednesday.
Aidee Manzano, former co-chairperson of Students United for Immigrant Equality, said the immigrant community is not going to feel any sense of protection by their local law enforcement if the bill passes eventually.
Manzano said it worries her to think about how her family members may be influenced by this bill because she comes from a mixed-status family.
The next steps of the bill are to be reviewed by the N.C. Senate and then the Governor. Pinto said he hopes the bill doesn’t pass in the Senate.
“I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail and that they listen to the number of voices that are coming out against this bill, so I’m hoping that it doesn’t,” he said.
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