Veto likely again ahead for bill making NC sheriffs aid ICE

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at the state's National Guard headquarters in Raleigh. Photo via N.C. DPS

RALEIGH — Legislation requiring North Carolina’s sheriffs to assist federal agents who are seeking a jail inmate whom they believe is in the country unlawfully neared final General Assembly approval Thursday with House backing.

The Senate bill is a response by Republicans unhappy with Democratic sheriffs in several urban counties who have stopped working closely with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold defendants. The Senate, which voted for the measure in March 2021, now must accept a small change made by the House before sending the measure to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Friday is likely the last day of the General Assembly’s primary work session this year.


The House’s 65-47 party-line vote signals that Cooper is likely to veto that measure if it goes to his desk. It’s only slightly different from a 2019 measure that Cooper vetoed and had solid support from legislative Democrats so it couldn’t be overridden.

The bill would require sheriffs and other jail administrators to check whether any person charged with felony drug or violent crimes have ICE detainers seeking their 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.

Bill supporters say the measure is about protecting public safety during a time of increase violence and criminal activity. But groups representing immigrants and the poor argue these demands counter the desires of voters who elected sheriffs with campaign platforms of easing aggressive postures against immigrants. They also say the requirements also would reduce goodwill with the population of recent immigrants to the country.