CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper slammed the breaks on a bill that would make local sheriff’s offices cooperate with federal immigration and customs agents. Immigration activists are celebrating, and Republicans are hoping for another shot at getting it passed.
Republicans who wrote the bill say they did so because of sheriff’s offices like ours here in Mecklenburg County who have previously refused to work with ICE.
SB 101 would have required sheriff’s offices to notify ICE when they charged someone with a violent crime or high-level felony, if they couldn’t verify that person was a U.S. Citizen. Senator Thom Tillis says the habit of releasing undocumented immigrants who are charged with a violent crime, rather than turning them over to ICE, has become all too common.
“There have been examples of people held in custody in North Carolina, with local authorities, that have been released and committed additional crimes,” Tillis said.
Although it’s common for local sheriff’s offices to comply with ICE, republicans say counties like Mecklenburg and Wake have made it clear they won’t. In a statement, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden applauded Cooper’s veto.
“Once again, I applaud Governor Cooper on the veto of Senate Bill 101. Like its predecessor, House Bill 370; SB101 is unconstitutional and only encourages distrust. It would remove the authority of Sheriffs in North Carolina to make discretionary decisions that all Sheriffs are elected to make on behalf of their constituents,” McFadden wrote.
Tillis said removing the authority of a local law enforcement agency that is not complying with the requirement to work with ICE is the whole point of SB 101.
“It would remove the authority of Mecklenburg County law enforcement, or any law enforcement agency, from saying that someone who was charged with rape and child offenses can be released back into the community,” Tillis said.
But Héctor Vaca, Immigrant Justice Advocate with Action NC, says this law would’ve caused more bad than good.
“This is a racist law that was being introduced. So, we’re thankful that Governor Cooper did the right thing and vetoed it,” Vaca said.
Vaca felt SB 101 would’ve increased racial profiling and mistrust of law enforcement among immigrant communities.
“If the sheriff feels that the person might be in the country, undocumented, or if they were even an immigrant, they would have cause to investigate, and then turn that person over to ice,” Vaca said.
But Tillis says many people are missing the mark of this bill.
“If we’re talking about someone here who is in custody for a misdemeanor or a nonviolent crime, we can have a discussion about whether or not they should be deported. But we cannot have a discussion, in my mind, of anyone who is in this country illegally, who has committed a violent crime,” Tillis explained.
So, what comes next? Senator Thom Tillis says he wants to introduce a bill in the Senate that says any law enforcement agency that refuses to cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies, like ICE, won’t be able to get federal grants.