RALEIGH – House Bill 370, which would require county law enforcement to honor check the immigration status of all felony and DWI arrests and honor ICE detainers or face steep fines, has now gained the support of the N.C. Sheriff’s Association. The Association was originally opposed to the bill until a key change was made in committee Wednesday.
Now, instead of having officers check legal status of a prisoner, a judicial official will order it to be done as a pre-trial condition of release and those with ICE detainers will get reported.
While most sheriffs in North Carolina already do a great job cooperating with federal immigration authorities to address criminal illegal aliens in their communities, a handful have made a point to be overtly political in their stand against such enforcement of the law.
Durham Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said he opposes the proposed legislation.
“With ICE and ICE detainers, I will not honor them,” Sheriff Birkhead said. “I promised that and I followed through on that by issuing an executive order the first week I was in office, that we would no longer honor ICE detainers. To me, they’re unconstitutional. There’s nothing in the state law that mandates I have to honor ICE detainers. The federal government has not changed the law that says I have to honor ICE detainers.”
In opposition to a proposed law to mandate sheriffs have to honor ICE detainers, Sheriff Birkhead of Durham says there is nothing in state law that mandates he has to honor ICE detainers. Hopefully the honorable state lawmakers can square that circle for him.
The Senate Judiciary Committee meeting was, of course, attended by a plethora of activists on behalf of illegal immigrants who argued, essentially, that the bill is mean and breeds fear of deportation among illegal immigrant communities. There is a second meeting Thursday that will decide if the bill reaches the Senate floor for a vote.
The uncooperative political nature of several county sheriffs will merely result in more unilateral ICE presence, according to the agency itself, contrary to the sheriffs’ hopes that suspending relationships with ICE will endear them to the illegal immigrant communities.
Statement from ICE:
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) places detainers on individuals who have been arrested on local criminal charges and who are suspected of being deportable, so that ICE can take custody of that person when he or she is released from local custody. When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.
Any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. Local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as in jurisdictions that do not cooperate with ICE the agency has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations.
A consequence of ICE being forced to make more arrests on the streets is the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals that wouldn’t have been encountered had we been allowed to take custody of a criminal target within the confines of a local jail.”
It’s opposition to common sense legislation like HB370 that makes one wonder what exactly the goals of the social justice warriors are. Now with the support of the Sheriff’s Association, this common sense may actually have a clearer path toward becoming law. If the bill makes it out of committee, it goes to the Senate floor for a vote next week.