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ICE cooperation bill passes NC House, heads to state Senate

 Republican Destin Hall speaks in favor of obligating local sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
North Carolina General Assembly livestream
Republican Destin Hall speaks in favor of obligating local sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored bill Tuesday that would require all local sheriffs to collaborate with federal immigration officials. The bill, now headed to the state Senate, has immigrant communities on edge.

House Bill 10, passed by a partisan vote of 71 to 44, would effectively turn a voluntary federal program, known as 287(g), into a mandatory, statewide policy.

Currently, 15 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have voluntary agreements to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That cooperation might mean verifying the immigration status of certain detained people or holding them an additional 48 hours to transfer to ICE custody.

Republican Destin Hall, a sponsor of the bill, told lawmakers Tuesday that a mandatory cooperation policy is necessary because some local sheriffs don’t have partnerships with ICE.

“Now why do we need this bill at this point?" Hall said. "The reason is, as we well know by now, there are a small number of sheriffs in our state who have completely stopped working with ICE, and in many cases completely stopped communicating with ICE in any meaningful way regarding illegal aliens who have been charged with crimes in our state."

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden has been a vocal opponent of both 287(g) and attempts to impose immigration-enforcement duties on local officials.

McFadden said earlier this month that the policy seeks to diminish the power of democratically elected sheriffs.

Several Democratic lawmakers, like Laura Budd of Mecklenburg County, questioned the utility of overriding local officials.

“Stripping a sheriff of his discretion and his ability to do his job while increasing the financial burden on his staff and his jail by forcing compliance with this voluntary federal program does not achieve what House Bill 10 intends to do,” Budd said.

Democrat Maria Cervania, of Wake County, touched on the risk of encouraging racial profiling and shared a personal experience of immigration scrutiny during a traffic stop.

“[The officer] asked me, ‘Ma’am, where were you born?’ I told him ‘Sir, I was born in Oakland, California.’ And he asked me again, ‘No, where were you born?’” she said. “Those three hours were the scariest, and I’ll never get that back again. And what happened to me is not unique, and it happens more than you think.”

More than 120 local, national and regional organizations have publicly opposed H.B. 10. One of those organizations is the Carolina Migrant Network, cofounded by Stefania Arteaga.

“It’s extremely disheartening to see that there is an attempt from state legislators to try to mandate something that's voluntary, that we know in Mecklenburg County has harmed our communities,” Arteaga said.

She added that the bill could damage trust and dissuade immigrants from speaking with law enforcement or seeking essential services like medical care.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed two previous ICE cooperation bills in 2019 and 2022.

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Kayla Young is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity, and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.