State Senators today unveiled a modified version of House Bill 370 that would force all North Carolina county sheriffs to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining and deporting community members or face potential removal from office.    

The bill would require county sheriffs to comply with a “request, approval, or other instruction” from federal immigration officers to hold someone in jail, even if they are eligible for release under North Carolina law. So-called “ICE detainer requests” often lack probable cause and can lead to the prolonged detention of people without a court order, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.   

Under the new version of H.B. 370:     

  • Sheriffs could face removal from office if they do not comply with ICE requests to hold people in jail for up to 96 hours who are otherwise eligible for release under state law.     
  • The limited protections for witnesses and crime victims that was in the previous version of the bill is eliminated.     
  • Sheriffs are required to investigate the immigration status of every person brought to county jails and report non-citizens to ICE, regardless of their charges.  

The North Carolina House of Representatives approved an earlier version of the bill in April.  

“This is still an extreme anti-immigrant bill that will tear apart families, spread fear across communities, and harm public safety,” said Stefania Arteaga, ACLU of North Carolina Statewide Immigrants’ Rights Organizer. “North Carolina’s towns and counties shouldn’t be forced to spend their limited resources on helping the Trump administration’s deportation force carry out its anti-immigrant agenda. Legislators should reject this bill, and if it reaches his desk, Governor Cooper should stand up for local law enforcement and all community members by issuing a swift veto.”    

“From forging warrants to wrongly issuing detainers for U.S. citizens, ICE has a documented track record of flouting the law and violating people’s rights,” said Susanna Birdsong, ACLU of North Carolina Senior Policy Counsel. “North Carolina’s sheriffs and local governments won’t be protected from expensive lawsuits under this bill -- instead they will be on the hook and legally liable whenever ICE violates someone’s rights.”    

Last year, voters in North Carolina’s two largest counties – Mecklenburg and Wake – elected sheriffs who campaigned on promises, now fulfilled, to end their county’s involvement in the federal 287(g) program, a partnership with federal immigration officers that has led to the deportation of thousands from North Carolina. Sheriffs in Buncombe, Forsyth, Guilford, and Durham counties have also announced that they will no longer hold people in jail on ICE detainer requests.