RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina legislators have passed House Bill 370, which, if enacted into law, would force county sheriffs to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE in detaining and deporting people.
The bill would mandate that county sheriffs comply with requests or other instructions from federal immigration officers to hold someone in jail – even if that person was eligible for release under state law.
Moises Serrano, political director at the advocacy organization El Pueblo, says instead of working with federal agencies, state legislators should be focusing on what North Carolina voters want.
“And North Carolina legislators have actually said – the sponsors of this bill – have actually said publicly that they have worked closely with federal authorities, federal immigration and customs enforcement officials, to craft this legislation,” he points out. “I think for us, that’s very dangerous, to have national agencies creating and crafting state policies.”
The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association has issued a statement supporting the bill. However, Gov. Roy Cooper has voiced his opposition, calling the measure “unconstitutional.”
Additionally, sheriffs from counties across the state have announced they will no longer detain people when requested to do so by ICE.
Serrano also points out that under HB 370, sheriffs who refuse to cooperate with ICE requests could potentially lose their jobs.
“What is so dangerous about this bill is that any five people, a group of five people, can come together and file a grievance against the sheriff just as long as they believe that the sheriff is not cooperating with ICE,” he stresses. “So that is what is reckless and dangerous about this bill, is that there is no true oversight.”
Last year, voters in Mecklenburg and Wake counties elected sheriffs who ended involvement in a federal program that allows local police to work with federal immigration officers in order to enforce federal immigration laws.