****UPDATE: The House passed HB370 on Wednesday night. It now goes to the Senate.****
County officials have the ability to choose whether to what extent they cooperate with federal immigration enforcement activity.
But that all might change soon if a new bill in the North Carolina House ends up as law.
House Bill 370 is scheduled to be discussed Wednesday in the House. The bill requires North Carolina sheriffs to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, by making it mandatory for county law enforcement officials to honor ICE detainer requests for persons charged with a criminal or impaired driver offense.
But HB 370 still has a long way to go if it is to ever become law. It would need to pass the House and the Senate. Then, Governor Roy Cooper has the opportunity to veto the bill.
According to the Associated Press, last week a spokesperson for the Governor said Cooper, “has serious concerns about taking away local authority and making it harder for local law enforcement to do their jobs.” Democrats won enough seats in last November’s elections to break the veto-proof supermajorities Republicans have held in recent years.
In February, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle joined several other mayors from across North Carolina in signing onto a letter condemning the activities of ICE in their towns.
“They are ripping families apart,” she said, “And it terrorizes families and communities.”
The mayors’ letter came as a response to ICE announcing that 200 individuals had been taken into custody during raids and that not all of those arrested had criminal backgrounds.
Those raids occurred after several elections for sheriff last November across the state were won by candidates who pledged to end their office’s cooperation with immigration enforcement.
HB 370 would allow county officials to ignore detainer requests if the subject is a victim of a crime or reporting a crime.
Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood has not honored detainers. He and other local law enforcement officials have said they believed it allowed for safer community policing rather than local authorities carrying out federal immigration enforcement.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the North Carolina Sheriff’s Office opposed the bill, saying the people of each county “should retain the ability to decide which lawful method they will utilize in complying with existing federal and state law.”