North Carolina congresspeople are trying to bring a failed state immigration proposal back from the dead.
They introduced the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act this week, which would give states and localities the authority to keep immigrants in custody upon Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s issuance of a detainer and hold them until ICE can assume custody of them.
This bill comes just months after Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would have forced local sheriffs to comply with ICE in holding individuals for whom the organization had issued a detainer.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., announced that he would introduce the bill in the Senate this week, along with co-sponsor Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA. In the House, Republicans Rep. Ted Budd, Rep. Richard Hudson and Rep. Dan Bishop from North Carolina were the bill’s primary movers.
Lawmakers also hope to stem the trend of sanctuary cities — localities that limit their cooperation with federal officials in an attempt to protect immigrant populations that they perceive as being targeted by the law.
“This bill, along with the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Act, lays out a clear incentive-based approach that takes all the excuses away from sanctuary cities and would make it an easy decision to cooperate with federal law enforcement,” Budd said in a statement Wednesday.
He and his fellow lawmakers share his concern that local sheriffs are purposefully making the jobs of federal law enforcement officials more difficult.
In addition, they believe local sheriffs’ lack of cooperation puts the safety of their constituents at risk.
“North Carolinians are rightfully disturbed that a handful of local sheriffs are putting politics ahead of public safety by implementing reckless sanctuary policies that release dangerous criminals back into our communities and make it harder for federal law enforcement to do their jobs,” Tillis said in a release.
While some are concerned about what would happen if this bill doesn't pass, others are concerned with what might happen if it does.
Stefania Arteaga, the statewide immigrants’ rights organizer for the North Carolina ACLU, expressed her concerns regarding the ramifications of the proposed legislation.
She said she is concerned that passing the bill would violate the will of citizens in North Carolina. She said sheriffs in Durham, Mecklenburg and Wake counties were voted into office in part because of their willingness to refuse to cooperate with ICE.
Arteaga also raised the issue of possible violations of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, which this bill may encourage if implemented. She said she believes the bill may force individuals to be held for excessive periods of time, even when the charges the state had levied against them clear.
But she is chiefly concerned with the divisive nature of the entire situation, particularly the propensity of xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric she said she believes is being directed at immigrant communities across the country.
“There’s this huge emphasis of trying to divide and have this villainizing effect against the immigrant community,” she said.
She said she believes this is just another example of the issue of immigration being used as a political tool by lawmakers across the country.
Many of the lawmakers who have voiced their support for the bill stress that it is a matter of safety, not a matter of ideological posturing.
“Public safety should always take priority over politics,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR, another co-sponsor of the proposal, in the release.
The Senate version of the bill has also been co-sponsored by Senators John Cornyn, R-TX, Joni Ernst, R-IA, David Perdue, R-GA and Marsha Blackburn, R-TN.
The House version of the bill was introduced by Budd Wednesday morning, and debate on it will take place in the coming months.
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