The North Carolina House passed a bill this month that would require county sheriffs' departments to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Currently, sheriffs' departments have the authority to decide whether or not to work with ICE when they receive immigrants.
The new bill would require sheriffs to “comply with, honor and fulfill any request made” by ICE, which would increase ICE’s presence in local areas, according to House Bill 370. The bill passed through state house and is currently under review by the senate.
Siembra NC, a grassroots immigrants rights organization, started a petition against House Bill 370, asking Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill if it ends up passing through the senate. The petition has more than 4,000 signatures.
Siembra labels the bill a “Show Me Your Papers” law, where Siembra references other proposed bills around the country that require local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE.
Siembra’s petition said the new bill would “increase racial profiling, detentions, deportations and the separation of families and communities in North Carolina.”
The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association (NCSA) said it opposes the bill. In a position statement, the association said most sheriffs in the state already comply with ICE detainers and are opposed to laws that require or prohibit local law enforcement to take part in ICE detainer programs.
Some sheriffs in more urban areas have been accused of being “sanctuary sheriffs,” or allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the county, according to NC Policy Watch. In a press conference in February, ICE Field Office Director Sean Gallagher said these sheriffs release criminals to the streets and it is a harm to citizens.
The NCSA proposed an amended bill that allows sheriffs more freedom. It argues this gives more power to the citizens of each county since the sheriff is an elected position.
“The people of each county, as reflected by the decision of their elected sheriff, should retain the ability to decide which lawful method they will utilize in complying with existing federal and state law,” the organization said in its position statement.
Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson — who is in favor of tighter immigration policies — is in support of an amended version of the bill proposed by the NCSA, according to Byron Tucker, public information officer for the sheriff’s department.
But junior Gabrielle Cifelli, the public relations chair for Elon University College Republicans, said her organization supports the bill.
“I say that we believe in 'America First,’” Cifelli said.
Cifelli said when people break the law by crossing the border illegally, they should be held accountable.
Senior David Duncan, president and co-founder of the organization Immigrant Realities, said the bill could potentially harm immigrant communities, causing them to fear and distrust law enforcement.
“The short-term effects of this is that immigrants are not going to be able to really contribute and be a part of their communities.” Duncan said. “The long term effects — and what research has shown — is that immigrants’ families are taking a toll. Immigrants are already at a disadvantage.”
Duncan believes the bill is just one piece of a larger problem.
“This is one bill that I think is a symptom of greater issue of national insecurity, nationally white supremacy,” Duncan said. “Xenophobic perspective is rooted in racist nativism that dictates where power should be given and not.”