North Carolina Legislature Considers Bill to Compel Sheriffs to Cooperate With ICE
North Carolina Legislature Considers Bill to Compel Sheriffs to Cooperate With ICE

By Aaron Gifford

A North Carolina bill that pushes back on sanctuary counties shielding illegal immigrants from federal authorities is making its way through the state legislature.

House Bill 10, “Requiring Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE (U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement),” was introduced last year and amended during committee reviews in recent months.

It overwhelmingly passed in the state house before it went to the senate on May 15.

The legislation requires county sheriff’s agencies to inform federal authorities when crime suspects held at their facilities are unable to provide proof of legal U.S. residency.

The stated protocol for reporting the arrests of suspected illegal immigrants and holding them for at least two days pending further instructions from ICE is not new.

Still, HB 10 turns what was a requested and recommended practice into a mandatory one by authorizing the Attorney General’s Office to take action against sheriff’s agencies that don’t comply.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), was unavailable to discuss the status of his legislation and the challenges it could face from a state Senate with a narrow Republican majority (52–48) and Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper, who vetoed previous versions of the bill.

In a January 2023 news release announcing HB10’s re-introduction after Republicans gained more seats in the legislature, Mr. Hall said the law is necessary because a small number of “woke sheriffs are actively choosing to place politics above public safety.”

“Cooperating with ICE about illegal aliens charged with serious crimes in our state should be common sense,” Mr. Hall said in the Jan. 25, 2023, news release.

“Their decision to cut off communications with immigration officials only puts more innocent people and officers in harm’s way.”

Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), a co-sponsor, said this bill underscores the need for all 100 counties in the state to cooperate with federal authorities fully.

“Allowing detained illegal aliens charged with serious crimes to walk free even though they have a federal deportation order against them shows a severe lack of judgment,” Mr. Saine said in the news release.

“We have seen case after case where these politically motivated policies have led to tragedies in our communities, and it has to stop.”

The bill’s latest version also requires county jail administrators to report to state legislators annually, starting in October 2025, the number of times they contacted ICE.

The bill identifies sheriff’s departments but does not name other types of law agencies like state troopers or city or town police.

Jails, however, are typically maintained at the county level under the jurisdiction of sheriff’s departments, so the focus is placed on where suspects are detained, not who arrested them.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden, whose agency serves the Charlotte metro area, calls HB 10 an unfunded mandate that places an administrative burden on his department without providing additional state aid or personnel.

“Many sheriff’s offices may have already decided to honor ICE detainers; however, HB10 is not about continuing this practice alone.

“It will increase the administrative burdens that sheriffs face when doing so and without due compensation,” Mr. McFadden said in a May 23 email response to The Epoch Times.

“Furthermore, as is often the case as more bureaucracy is created, legal liability for any misstep will increase,” he added.

“Though HB10 aims to limit civil and criminal liability when holding a person for ICE, sheriffs will continue to be subject to constitutional liability if they fail to properly follow the custody process established under this bill.”

Several North Carolina-based immigration and Latino community advocacy organizations oppose HB 10, including Just Futures Law Group, El Pueblo, North Carolina Justice Center, and Somos Siembra, whose website trumpets an “Ice Watch” program and a cash assistance fund for family members of those arrested by ICE.

In a May 1 news release, El Pueblo said more than 100 people attended a rally in Raleigh to protest HB 10, calling it an anti-immigration measure and racial profiling.

“Misleading arguments have been used to justify this legislation. It is not true that about 90 sheriffs voluntarily cooperate with ICE,” El Pueblo Executive Director Iliana Santillan said in the news release.

“It has also been said that it will only target those who have committed a crime, and we know that many people are in jails only as suspects.

“This bill opens the door to racial profiling and abuse of power by law enforcement.”

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