Laura Leslie, WRAL-TV, March 27, 2019
North Carolina sheriffs would have to keep people in county jails when federal immigration officials request it under a bill that cleared a House committee on Wednesday.
New sheriffs in Wake, Durham and Mecklenburg counties stopped honoring such detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they took office in December.
Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker and Mecklenburg County sheriff Garry McFadden also withdrew their agencies from the federal 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people officers encounter during their daily duties.
“These sanctuary sheriffs are putting politics ahead of public safety,” said Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, a chief sponsor of House Bill 370.
Hall argued that undocumented immigrants facing charges such as attempted murder, robbery and kidnapping have been released from county jails instead of being kept behind bars so ICE agents could take custody of them.
ICE has stepped up immigration raids in the state because of the decreased cooperation, and its regional director called the increased presence the “new normal” last month.
Federal law doesn’t require sheriffs to cooperate with ICE, but most in North Carolina already do.
Reps. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, and Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said the proposal would be a cost burden on counties forced to keep people in jails and could also open them up to lawsuits alleging illegal detention.
Anyone who thinks local law enforcement isn’t cooperating with ICE could file an action in Superior Court, and the court could fine the agency $1,000 to $1,500 for every day it doesn’t comply. A second offense would boost that to $25,000 a day.
The House Judiciary committee voted 17-9 in favor of the bill, which has two more stops before its goes to the House floor.