Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would have required local sheriffs to honor detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday, virtually eliminating its chance of becoming law.
The General Assembly ratified House Bill 370 the day before, following months of revision and heated debate.
The act would have eliminated North Carolina sheriffs’ choice to honor or deny requests made by ICE that could result in the detainment of persons charged with a crime and held in a state jail.
The bill most notably enumerates two new rules that local police would be forced to follow:
1. Upon request, jail administrators would have to allow ICE to interview any person in custody within 24 hours.
2. If a person charged – not convicted – with a criminal offense is being held in state jail and ICE has issued a detainer request for them, a state judicial official would order them to continue to be held if the prisoner's identity matches that of the request. The prisoner would be released if the request is rescinded or if 48 hours passes, but they would still be held for other crimes if applicable. Otherwise, ICE would take custody of the prisoner.
Cooper’s veto included a brief paragraph attributing the bill to being “simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina.” He also noted that a sheriff’s violation of this policy would be the only specifically named violation that could result in the removal of the sheriff from office.
“This bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating sheriffs to do the job of federal agents, using local resources that could hurt their ability to protect their counties,” Cooper said in the statement.
Alissa Ellis, the regional immigrants' rights strategist for the N.C. ACLU, praised Cooper “for standing up for all communities and vetoing this extreme and dangerous anti-immigrant bill.” However, in a public release, Lt. Governor Dan Forest called the veto shameful.