A coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations has condemned recently introduced Senate Bill 101 that would increase immigration regulations in North Carolina.
The bill, if passed, would require that individuals subject to a detainer request to be held for 48 hours, which means law enforcement officials would be obligated to detain those suspected of being undocumented. It would also require local sheriff's offices to report to a legislative committee about their immigration enforcement.
Sheriffs who willfully avoid making a claim to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and don’t comply with procedures outlined in the bill would face a Class I misdemeanor.
“We condemn this bill because we know it’s going to harm our communities,” Veronica Aguilar, communications coordinator at El Pueblo, said. “It’s going to place our communities at risk. It’s placing our public health and safety at risk during a pandemic. It’s spreading fear within our immigrant communities.”
El Pueblo is a nonprofit based in Raleigh that works with the Latinx community and other marginalized communities.
The bill is a copycat version of House Bill 370, which was introduced in 2019. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill claiming that it was “simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina.”
The coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations, which includes El Pueblo and the ACLU of North Carolina, initially formed to fight House Bill 370.
“We saw it as a threat and organizations across the state who advocate for immigrants came together and organized in opposition to this bill,” Aguilar said.
The coalition cited several concerns with potential consequences of Senate Bill 101. Stefanía Arteaga, acting regional immigrants’ rights strategist for the ACLU of North Carolina, said the bill would create significant mistrust in the immigrant community.
“There’s implications not only through the financial point of view, but also through the humanitarian point of view with the separation of families,” Arteaga said.
Rick Su, UNC professor of law who specializes in immigration law, agreed there could be administrative fiscal costs and costs to community relations.
“They’d probably be very cautious with their dealings with the sheriff’s department — sheriff’s office,” Su said.
Su hypothesized that with the Biden administration, more of these state immigration bills may pop up.
“From a political standpoint, the next four years are gearing up to be a return to during the Obama administration when states really took an active role in pressuring the federal government — enacting their own laws to criticize federal immigration policies,” Su said.
Right now, the bill has just been introduced to the North Carolina Senate. It passed first reading on Feb. 16, but no votes have been taken on the bill yet.
Orange County representatives oppose the bill.
“I’m completely opposed to this bill,” Democratic N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer said. “It’s version 2.0 of what Republicans tried to run (previously) and the government vetoed.”
N.C. Rep. Verla Insko (D-Orange County) said if she had to vote on the current version, she would vote no.
“I’ve always thought it was unreasonable for the federal government to expect county taxpayers to pay for federal — to enforce federal laws,” Insko said.
Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood declined to comment on the new bill.
In 2019, the Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on House Bill 370 when the bill was finalized and sent to the governor. He outlined some “major flaws” in the bill.
“Forcing a sheriff to honor a detainer request erodes the office of sheriff, opening the door for the General Assembly to weaken further the authority and discretion vested in the office,” Blackwood said in the statement.
Should the bill come to a vote, the coalition of immigrants’ rights groups plans to educate lawmakers on implications of the bill, Arteaga said.
“If this bill does move to a vote, we will be taking action,” Aguilar added.
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