In March 2023, the North Carolina House of Representatives approved House Bill 10, also known as the “Require Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE” Act. This bill, which pretty much does what it says in the title, is currently still awaiting Senate approval.
In the meantime, its mandate remains controversial: for many, having North Caroline Sheriffs working with ICE is a matter of common sense. For other voices and immigrant rights organizations, its effects could trigger deeper divisions within Nort Carolina’s population
What Is House Bill 10 Really About?
House Bill 10 dates back to early 2023, and it was first presented to the North Carolina Senate on January 25. It was sponsored by Representatives Destin Hall, Brenden Jones, and Jason Saine, all Republicans.
Initially, it was sent for re-drafting and withdrawn a couple of times between January and March 2023. However, on March 29, it passed its first reading and was sent to the Senate Commission on Rules and Operations. Before it can become the law of the land, it will need to obtain the Senate’s final approval.
According to the Bill’s official summary, HB 10 will mandate all sheriffs to honor “immigration detainer” requests issued by the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. In this way, whenever someone with an unknown or irregular immigration status is arrested – whether it’s due to a traffic violation, a misdemeanor, or because they’re suspected of a violent crime – the suspects can be detained beyond their scheduled release without a warrant.
Currently, many jurisdictions in North Carolina are part of the federal 278(g) program, which allows local law enforcement to collaborate with ICE agents. However, this cooperation can be applied at the sheriff’s discretion, and some counties have withdrawn from the program altogether.
If signed into law, House Bill 10 would make this cooperation mandatory across the State, and it would end the privileges of so-called “sanctuary towns”.
Is Cooperation Between NC Sheriffs and ICE Truly That Simple?
So far, House Bill 10 has raised financial and human rights concerns.
Its defenders, such as sponsor Destin Hall (R-87) consider the bill an essential tool to ensure the appropriate rule of law within North Carolina. For him, it would combat “an environment where illegal aliens who have been charged with serious crimes are released back into our communities.”
His colleague, Danny Britt (R-24) largely agrees and says the bill will essentially keep violent offenders locked away.
However, the other side of the aisle holds sharply contrasting opinions. While immigration detainers can only be issued for people who have already broken the law, detractors point out that it doesn’t differentiate between the charges of their seriousness. After all, both administrative and criminal arrest warrants fall under the purview of the bill – which could potentially encompass anything from unpaid tickets to assault.
For human rights defenders, opening the door for longer arrests, even without official charges or renewed warrants, is a slippery slope. Meanwhile, immigration activists warn of a deeper, and possibly more toxic effect: it may sour relations between immigrant communities and law enforcement officers.
In North Carolina, as in other parts of the country, police departments often need to navigate tricky relationships with the populations they serve. In immigrant or minority communities, residents may become more wary of officers and less willing to cooperate. Similar initiatives in other states have, in the past, resulted in dramatic drops in reports of assault or domestic violence – which could make families less safe instead.
Finally, the bill doesn’t appropriately address the extra burdens – both in staff and resources – required to keep people detained for longer. So far, it seems this burden would fall on local authorities, who would once again take the fall from orders issued by federal authorities.
Inter-agency cooperation can often be a minefield, and even more so when it involves federal and local authorities. On one hand, it will make it easier to apply existing laws equally across different jurisdictions. However, it may also pit individual sheriffs and police officers against their own consciences – while simultaneously leaving the victims of violence unprotected and afraid to contact the police.
Image Credit: Photo by Bruno Guerrero on Unsplash