RALEIGH — After the N.C. Sheriffs Association expressed concerns about a House bill passed in early April to require cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, members of both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly have worked with the state’s sheriffs and with federal immigration officials to create a compromise bill.
The N.C. Sheriffs Association has come out in favor of this version, which was presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee in mid-June, saying the bill, “provides an appropriate and careful balance under the Constitution for the rights of the accused and for the public safety of our communities.”
The legislation requires proof of citizenship for any in their custody, and if the person is not a citizen and has a federal immigration detainer, they must be brought before a magistrate judge. The judge could then issue a warrant, resolving, in theory, the concerns of some sheriffs who said they preferred warrants to the ICE detainer requests, which ask local law enforcement to hold a suspect for 48 hours to give ICE a chance to re-arrest them before release.
Senate primary sponsors, Sens. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico) and Jim Perry (R-Lenoir), released a statement saying, “ICE issues detainer requests for a reason: those present in this country unlawfully who have committed serious crimes should be deported. This legislation bridges the divide to reach a resolution on the sanctuary cities issue. We’re hard-pressed to find anybody who believes serious criminals should be allowed to stay in the United States.”
The bill would require sheriffs to hold these detainees for four days if there is a request from federal immigration officials. But some sheriffs from more urban counties, like Wake and Mecklenburg, still oppose being required to cooperate with ICE detainers at all.
“We got here because there are a very, very small number of sheriffs in North Carolina who have decided that they no longer even want to communicate with federal immigration authorities,” said the bill’s House primary sponsor, Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), while presenting the bill at the Senate Judiciary Committee. “As a result, they’re releasing folks onto the streets that shouldn’t be released. They’re releasing some dangerous folks. We saw an example in Mecklenburg County just a few weeks ago.”
Hall was referring to a Honduran immigrant, Luis Pineda-Ancheta, who had re-entered the country illegally after being deported and was again arrested on charges of domestic abuse and assault on a female. Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden released Pineda-Ancheta, despite an ICE detainer request. ICE and US Attorney for Western North Carolina Andrew Murray both spoke out against that decision after a nine-hour standoff with a police SWAT team ensued in order to take Pineda-Ancheta back into custody.
U.S. congressional candidate and state senator Dan Bishop (R-Meck.) released a statement and a petition demanding that McFadden resign. “Sheriff McFadden was charged with protecting the safety of our citizens, but instead he put them at risk in favor of his radical liberal agenda,” said Bishop. “He needs to resign and other sanctuary sheriffs like him must be stopped.”
McFadden says it’s not fair to blame him for the incident and that ICE needs to bring a federal warrant, not a detainer request, if they want anyone he is holding. He also referenced the 287(g) Program, a voluntary program whereby local sheriffs take a more proactive role in enforcing federal immigration law.
“Let me be clear: 287(g) is off the table,” said McFadden at a press conference. “You bring me a federal warrant, and I have 436 federal inmates here at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center — and of course I didn’t say jail because I’m trying to change the language. It’s my detention center and my residents. So, am I cooperating with the federal government and federal officials? Yes. Somehow, it’s not working well with ICE.”
McFadden’s counterpart in Wake County, Sheriff Gerald Baker, also held a press conference signaling his department’s opposition to the legislation.
“That bill is designed to force us sheriffs who refuse to participate in the 287(g) Program to work with ICE and to do their job, basically,” said Baker. “We still stand right where we are on that. We will not budge. We will not move. And we’re going to sit back and watch that bill as it moves through the legislature and see what happens.”
Murray told NSJ that 287(g) should not be confused with simply cooperating with ICE detainers on those already in custody.
“The sheriffs get to use their resources how they want,” Murray said. “They don’t have to participate in the task force. My issue is when that person is coming out of jail, they [sheriffs] should cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities. All a sheriff has to do is call and say, ‘Hey, we’re processing this guy out this evening,’ and ICE would be there at the door and take him into custody at that time.”
Florida passed a similar bill, which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed on Friday, June 14, requiring local sheriffs to honor ICE detainer requests on anyone in their custody.
President Donald Trump tweeted to congratulate DeSantis on signing the bill, saying, “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just signed Bill banning Sanctuary Cities in State, & forcing all law enforcement agencies to cooperate with Federal Immigration authorities. Bill prohibits local Gov’t from enacting Sanctuary policies that protect undocumented immigrants.”
Unlike Florida, North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper may be unlikely to sign a bill requiring law enforcement cooperation with ICE. The original bill, before the compromise with the N.C. Sheriffs Association, passed 63-51 with no Democrat votes, which would be needed to override a potential Cooper veto.
If the bill receives a favorable report out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it will then be sent to the Senate Rules Committee and then to the Senate floor for a vote.