GOP lawmakers renew effort to require NC sheriffs to cooperate with ICE

By Avi Bajpai

Updated February 22, 2023 3:02 PM

Raleigh News and Observer

State lawmakers wanting to crack down on illegal immigration have renewed an effort to require North Carolina sheriffs to inform U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they charge someone with certain high-level offenses and can’t determine their legal status. House Bill 10, a new version of similar legislation filed by GOP lawmakers in recent years and vetoed twice by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, was introduced by top Republican legislators last month and passed by a committee on Wednesday.

It could soon get a vote by the full House. Rep. Destin Hall, one of the bill’s primary sponsors and chairman of the House Rules Committee where the bill is headed next, has said that most sheriffs in the state already cooperate with ICE. Hall has said that the legislation Republicans have been trying to enact for years now is necessary to ensure compliance by “a small number of sheriffs in our state who have decided to simply not work with ICE.”

“We’re dealing with a bill that would simply require all sheriffs in the state to do what almost every single sheriff has already been doing,” Hall said during Wednesday’s meeting of the House Judiciary 2 Committee.

Democrats on the committee, including Reps. Marcia Morey of Durham County and Laura Budd of Mecklenburg County, spoke out against the bill, criticizing Republicans for proposing a measure that they said would strip local law enforcement officials of their power to decide if they would cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Republicans passed a previous version of the bill last year purely along party lines, and did not try to override Cooper’s veto. This year, however, they’re just one vote short of being able to override a veto.

Cooperation with ICE detainers

HB 10 would require sheriffs and other administrators of local jails to notify ICE if they can’t determine the legal status of someone charged with certain drug felonies, homicide, rape or other sex offenses, kidnapping and abduction, human trafficking, certain assault offenses, or violations of a domestic violence protective order. The bill would also require sheriffs to temporarily hold people for whom ICE has issued an immigrant detainer.

ICE uses detainers to inform local and state law enforcement agencies that it intends to take custody of people it has probable cause to believe are “removable non-citizens,” according to the agency’s website.

Under HB 10, sheriffs would be required to take people who are subjects of detainers before a state judge, who would order the person to be held for 48 hours or until ICE either takes custody of them or rescinds the detainer — whichever comes first.

Cooperation with ICE has been a key issue in recent sheriff’s elections in Wake County and other counties in the state. Former Wake Sheriff Gerald Baker and incumbent Mecklenburg Sheriff Gary McFadden ran for office in 2018 vowing to end cooperation agreements with ICE, and did so.

In a Twitter post on Tuesday, McFadden, who has spoken out against previous ICE cooperation bills, said he remained opposed to the new bills filed by Republicans in the House and Senate this session.

Committee hears from public speakers A number of people spoke in favor of and against HB 10 during public comments at Wednesday’s committee meeting. Ann Webb, a senior policy counsel at the ACLU of North Carolina, said the bill would “thwart the will of the voters of North Carolina’s largest counties, erode community safety by sowing distrust in law enforcement, and expose sheriffs and counties to costly lawsuits for constitutional violations.”

Webb said ICE has in the past issued hundreds of detainers without probable cause, showing a “disturbing disregard for the constitution and federal law.”

William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said there was broad public support for this kind of a bill. He pointed to the murder of Wake County sheriff’s deputy Ned Byrd, in August, as an example.

One of the brothers charged with killing Byrd, Arturo Marin-Sotelo, was in the country illegally, and was being held on a federal detainer, according to his attorney.

Another brother charged in Byrd’s death, Alder Marin-Sotelo, had also been charged with “possession of a firearm by an illegal alien,” The News & Observer previously reported. “The people who are suffering are the North Carolinians who have lost loved ones and property due to our government’s failure to protect us from citizens of other nations that you do not represent,” Gheen told lawmakers.

Bryanna Garcia, a policy organizer at El Pueblo, also said HB 10 would override the will of voters who had elected sheriffs after they campaigned on reducing or ending cooperation with ICE. “The constant urge to force sheriff’s departments to work with ICE will lead to extreme over-policing in Latinx communities,” Garcia said.

Gil Pagan, the director of Hispanos del Sur, rejected the notion that HB 10 was an “anti-immigrant” bill, and said his group had gotten feedback from concerned families in the Hispanic community who wanted officials to crack down on people engaged in serious crimes.

“Our communities are full of hard workers who want to raise their families in safe neighborhoods, free from drugs, illegal firearms, gangs, and sex trafficking,” Pagan said. “It’s a shame that we need to enact legislation for a couple of rogue sheriffs to be mandated to do their jobs.”

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