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GOP-backed measure on ICE and NC sheriffs looks a lot like bills vetoed by the governor before

person wearing a black police vest with an ICE badge
Keith Gardner
/
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Public Domain
A new measure in the NC House would require sheriffs to hold people charged with serious crimes if they're under a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer, even if they could otherwise be released from jail.

Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly seem eager to test their ability to override gubernatorial vetoes. GOP representatives just advanced a bill that would require sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, similar to legislation that Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has struck down twice in the past four years.

Much like the bills Cooper vetoed in 2019 and last year, a new measure in the state House would require sheriffs to hold people charged with serious crimes if they're under a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — or ICE — detainer, even if they could otherwise be released from jail.

Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell, Watauga) said the bill would only apply to people accused of crimes like murder, rape, and human trafficking.

"The individual can be held for just up to 48 hours so that ICE can come in do their job," Hall told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

But Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), a former district court judge, said state law already has mechanisms to hold people accused of violent felonies.

"That judge, that magistrate will be giving a no-bond on murder, they will be giving a million-dollar bond if there is violence or trafficking or the examples that were given," she stated at Wednesday's judiciary committee meeting.

Concerns of 'over-policing' and racial profiling

Bill opponents say it's a recipe for racial profiling in immigrant communities, and that ICE detainers are requests, not arrest warrants based on probable cause that a crime has been committed.

Wednesday's meeting featured emotional testimony from those for and against the bill during public comment.

Christina Storie told lawmakers of the suspected undocumented immigrant that was released after being charged in a 2011 hit-and-run on the Outer Banks that killed her brother and injured her and other relatives.

"I now live every day with PTSD, survivor's guilt. It has destroyed my family," Storie said, her voice breaking.

Bryanna Garcia, policy organizer for advocacy group El Pueblo, told the committee that while registering Latinx voters for last year's midterm elections her organization heard concerns expressed about prejudice in efforts to require sheriffs to cooperate with ICE.

"The constant urge to force sheriff departments to work with ICE will lead to extreme over-policing in Latinx communities," Garcia warned the committee members.

But Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page told the committee he did not think the bill is political or personal.

"It's about public safety," Page argued.

There seems to be an urban-rural, and partisan, divide among sheriffs. Rep. Laura Budd (D-Mecklenburg) read a statement from Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden opposing the bill. In the statement, McFadden expressed a concern the legislation would hurt policing by dissuading immigrants from cooperating with local law enforcement.

While the legislation hasn't changed much since the governor's previous vetoes, Republican numbers in the General Assembly have gone up.

The GOP now holds a veto-proof majority in the Senate and has 71 seats in the 120-member house. That means just one moderate Democrat's vote can help Republicans overcome a veto.

Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.