On April 3, 2019, House Bill 370 was passed by the North Carolina House of Representatives with a vote of 64-50 and has moved forward for approval by the North Carolina Senate. This bill requires all North Carolina Sheriffs to comply with the 287(g) program. This program is a (previously optional) program in which deputy sheriffs use federal databases to determine the immigration status of any arrested individual in order to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known as ICE, and begin deportation proceedings. This bill comes after newly elected sheriffs in Wake, Durham and Mecklenburg counties severed all cooperative ties with ICE. Following this move, ICE made a public statement where a spokesman stated they had raised the amount of immigration raids in the state, due to the unprecedented decisions on the part of the new sheriffs, and that their increased presence in the state would become a “new normal.”
HB 370 is sponsored by House republican representatives Destin Hall, Brendan Jones, Jason Saine and Carson Smith, with a co-sponsorship from NC House Speaker Tim Moore. Furthermore, the bill was crafted through direct collaboration with ICE officials, which both parties have been open about conveying to the public and media. Specifically, the bill requires all North Carolina sheriffs to abide by the 287(g) program to comply with ICE detainers. ICE detainers are written requests that require a law enforcement agency to keep an individual detained for an additional 48 hours after their normal release date. These detainers are issued with an administrative warrant and not a judicial warrant, which has raised questions of their validity as they do not require a substantial claim of probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, detainers do not follow the due process of law and could lead these local law enforcement agencies to face litigation and damages liabilities. Furthermore, any violation of these rules can be met by an action suit by any citizen of the state, and, subsequently, the state court can fine local law enforcement $1,000 to $1,500 for every day it does not comply, and any second offense can result in that amount increasing to $25,000. In fact, the court costs for the individual who files the complaint must also be paid for by the court under question. The bill makes itself clear to be a threat to local law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with ICE.
There has been extensive opposition to this bill by Latinx advocacy groups in North Carolina, the ACLU of North Carolina and, most notably, from the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association, who released a statement hours before the bill was voted on on the House floor. The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association makes their position clear: they support the enforcement of laws directed towards illegal immigration; however, they do not agree that sheriffs who have been elected by their constituents should be forced to comply with an optional program they do not believe fits their community. As the senior policy council of the ACLU of North Carolina stated, “Legislators should support the decisions of local law enforcement leaders and respect the will of the voters who elected them, not rush to pass another law that targets immigrants and wastes taxpayer resources.” Furthermore, the association upholds their position by citing the NC Supreme Court case Chavez v. Carmichael, which states that it is lawful for sheriffs to either honor ICE detainers or decline to honor them.
The Raleigh-based Latinx advocacy group El Pueblo has also released a statement in which they express their opposition to this bill, as they believe it destroys the trust between local authorities and immigrant communities. They present three main reasons as to why HB 370 is not beneficial: the bill would undermine community safety by making immigrants hesitant to cooperate with local law enforcement, it would make counties use their limited resources to partner with ICE and it retaliates against pro-immigrant sheriffs. Another key opposition to this bill is that it would crack down on misdemeanor and traffic offenses, which extends the jurisdiction of ICE much farther as the current policy only requires local law enforcement to report federal offenses to ICE, regardless of cooperation with the 287(g) program, as pointed out by House representative Darren Jackson. This fact adds another layer of fear among immigrant communities towards ICE, as it appears to be a way to detain as many undocumented immigrants as possible, regardless of a serious offense being committed. The supporters of this bill are adamant that it is not specifically targeting the Latinx community but is instead a move to keep North Carolina safe from undocumented immigrants who are not deported in a timely manner. Representative Destin Hall of Caldwell County stated to Spectrum News that the bill “doesn’t require sheriff’s offices to do the job of ICE” but instead strives to “simply notify ICE, let them know that they have someone there that they suspect of being an illegal immigrant and let ICE do their job and let them enforce federal immigration law.” Despite the insistence of House republicans that the bill is not an attack on the Latinx undocumented community but instead a policy improvement, skepticism remains due to the current political environment and anti-immigrant sentiments that have festered during the Trump administration.
By Yajaira Ramos-Ramirez, Staff Writer