NC bill requiring sheriffs to assist ICE goes to governor

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Republicans have approved legislation directing the state’s elected local sheriffs to learn the immigration status of jail inmates and assist federal agents who want to detain them.

But as with a similar measure approved by GOP lawmakers in 2019, the bill given final Senate approval Friday on a 25-19 party-line vote is likely to get vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The Senate voted to accept minor changes approved by the House on Thursday.

The bill would require sheriffs and other jail administrators to check whether someone charged with felony drug or violent crimes has detainers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking the person’s custody.

If a detainer is listed, deputies must take the inmate to a local magistrate or judge, who will decide whether to issue an order holding them. The additional hold would give ICE agents 48 hours to pick up the inmate.

The bill is a response to Democratic sheriffs in several urban counties who have stopped working closely with ICE to hold defendants. Republican sponsors, including Sen. Chuck Edwards — a congressional candidate this fall — say the measure is needed to protect the public from violent crime.

Groups representing immigrants and the poor that fought the 2019 bill and this year’s bill argued the change would make it less likely for immigrants to report crimes, leading to more dangerous communities.

With both Senate and House Democrats voting unanimously against the measure this week, prospects of a veto override by Republicans would appear difficult. Cooper’s 2019 veto also was upheld.

Cooper “has previously expressed concern about politically motivated laws that allow Washington, D.C., to supersede local law enforcement’s ability to keep our communities safe and this appears to be one of those,” Cooper spokesperson Mary Scott Winstead said Friday in a news release.

(WATCH BELOW: Immigration backlog due to pandemic)

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