Raleigh, N.C. – A bill requiring North Carolina sheriffs to notify federal law enforcement officials of criminal illegal immigrants detained in their jails and charged with crimes was approved by a 63-51 vote of the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.
House Bill 370 Require Sheriff Cooperation With ICE requires county sheriffs in North Carolina to honor detainer requests from the federal government for illegal immigrants who are already under arrest and charged with a crime.
Sheriffs in several North Carolina counties are refusing to cooperate with immigration officials to enforce federal law.
The “sanctuary sheriffs” in North Carolina have released illegal immigrants charged with serious crimes including assault on a government official, assault on a female, manslaughter, indecent liberties with a child, rape, kidnapping, and forcible sex offenses, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) is a lead sponsor of the legislation and co-chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Matters.
“These sanctuary sheriffs are simply putting partisan politics ahead of public safety,” Hall said. “This bill only applies to illegal immigrants who have been charged with crimes.”
“Most sheriffs in our state are already doing what this bill requires, and they’re doing it voluntarily. They’re doing everything they possibly can to help protect their communities.”
The legislation also requires sheriffs’ offices to track and report the number of queries they make to federal officials under its provisions.
H.B. 370 was also approved by the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House, following extensive public comment periods and lawmaker discussion.
The bill allows citizens who resides in a jurisdiction they believe is not in compliance with the proposed law to bring an action for declaratory or injunctive relief to enforce its provisions and require sheriff cooperation with federal officials.
Courts could impose civil penalties against any city, county, or law enforcement agency that fails to comply with federal detention orders.
The legislation does not apply to persons who are victims or witnesses of a criminal offense, anyone who is reporting an offense, or anyone who can establish lawful United States citizenship or legal immigration into the country.
“No matter what we do today, the federal immigration authorities have a duty to defend and uphold the law,” Hall said. “We are a nation of laws. We have immigration laws on the books. Some in here may disagree with those laws, but they’re there, and ICE is going to enforce those laws no matter what the sheriffs do here.”
Deputy House Majority Leader Brenden Jones, a primary sponsor of the bill, noted the bill only applies to illegal immigrants charged with crimes.
“This is about criminals,” Jones said. “It is this body’s duty and responsibility to ensure that local governments are not endangering the whole state. This is the right thing to do to protect everyone in this state.”
State House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said he co-sponsored the legislation to protect law-abiding North Carolinians who face enforcement of state and federal law.
“It’s just irresponsible for any official, particularly a law enforcement official, to in any way advocate releasing someone who is a criminal, who committed a crime, back out onto the streets, who should not even be here,” Moore said on Fox News in March.
“If the law-abiding citizens of North Carolina are subject to enforcement of state and federal law, then illegal immigrants detained for committing crimes should be too.”
H.B. 330 is co-sponsored by former sheriff Rep. Carson Smith (R-Pender), Deputy House Majority Leader Brenden Jones (R-Columbus), and Senior House Appropriations Committee co-chair Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln).