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6 NC Sheriffs Speak Out Against NCGA Bills Forcing Them to Act as ICE Agents

Source: CBS 17

Just as North Carolina Republicans are pushing a bill that would force county sheriffs to act as immigration agents, sheriffs from some of the largest counties in the state are speaking out against the legislation, CBS 17 reported.

Hoping that the third time’s the charm, Republicans in the House (House Bill 10) and Senate (Senate Bill 50) have once again filed legislation that would require all sheriffs to cooperate with ICE agents.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed two previous versions of the measure and Republicans did not have the votes to override his veto. Things could be different this time around.

In a letter to legislators, Wake County Sheriff Willie Rowe, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden, Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead, Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller, Wilson County Sheriff Calvin L. Woodard Jr., and Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood have voiced their opposition to both bills, writing that this legislation will result in having to focus less on the job they were elected to do.

“The role of the sheriff has historically focused on enforcing local laws in our jurisdictions, maintaining and operating jails, properly serving civil process papers, and providing security for North Carolina’s courtrooms,” the letter reads. “However, these bills set a precedent requiring that we prioritize voluntary immigration enforcement at the expense of local law enforcement priorities.”

In addition, the sheriffs wrote that HB 10 and SB 50 will do nothing to make anyone safer, and in fact, they will likely have the opposite impact on their communities.

“These bills will make our counties less safe,” they wrote. “Multiple studies show that mandatory immigration enforcement makes people less likely to trust government authorities without improving public safety. “ 

Forcing local sheriffs to do the federal government’s job also puts an undue burden – administrative and financial – on the departments. Laws such as HB 10/SB 50 can lead to serious, expensive litigation, according to the sheriffs, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

Ann Webb, an attorney for ACLU-NC, told a House committee that immigration detainers are not true arrest warrants and if a county sheriff holds an inmate in jail using a detainer, it could lead to lawsuits, according to The Associated Press.

The sheriffs also highlighted constitutional concerns they have with the bills in their letter.

“Despite including a provision limiting state and civil liability, these bills do not address the potential liability sheriffs will face due to constitutional violations,” the sheriffs wrote.

The bill “would thwart the will of the voters in North Carolina’s largest counties, erode community safety by sowing distrust in law enforcement and expose sheriffs and counties to costly lawsuits for constitutional violations,” Webb told the House committee.

Of course, none of these things matter to North Carolina Republicans. Those pushing this legislation are doing the same thing they’ve done nearly every day since the new legislative session started in January – focusing on the wrong priorities. This bill, like nearly every other bill the party has introduced, is built on scoring political points and using fear to divide North Carolinians.

The sheriffs’ ended their letter with a reasonable plea to lawmakers that will likely go unheeded.

“As Sheriffs, we take seriously our duties and our responsibilities to the people of North Carolina and we must be permitted to set local law enforcement priorities. We respectfully ask that you let us do just that.”

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