North Carolina House Approves Detaining Aliens for ICE
FAIR Take | April 2023
Last week, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill that would require state and local law enforcement to honor immigration detainers for aliens in their custody. Detainers are requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold suspected illegal aliens (and other deportable aliens) for up to 48 hours until ICE can pick them and put them in the deportation process. Similar bills were vetoed by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) in 2019 and 2022. However, this year, prospects to override a likely veto are significantly better.
Most law enforcement agencies in North Carolina already honor detainer requests. However, sheriffs who were elected in 2018 and serve in five of the state’s seven most populous counties (Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Buncombe) do not.
In January, Representative Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), the House Rules Committee Chairman, set out to solve this problem by introducing legislation that would require all jurisdictions to honor ICE detainers. Upon introduction of the bill, House Bill (HB) 10, he said, “[i]t’s sad that this small number of woke Sheriffs are actively choosing to place politics above public safety … Cooperating with ICE about illegal aliens charged with serious crimes in our state should be common-sense. Their decision to cut off communication with immigration officials only puts more innocent people and officers in harm’s way.”
House Republican Conference Chair Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), a cosponsor of the bill, added that “[a]llowing detained illegal aliens charged with serious crimes to walk free even though they have a federal deportation order against them shows a severe lack of judgment. We have seen case after case where these politically motivated policies have led to tragedies in our communities, and it has to stop.”
Regarding the details of the bill, HB 10 would:
- require that anyone in custody with an immigration detainer appear before a state judicial official, and, if the official determines the person named in the detainer is the same person appearing, then that individual must be held for 48 hours or until picked up by ICE, whichever comes first;
- require local jail officials to query ICE for immigration status and outstanding detainers for anyone booked for homicide, sex crimes, kidnapping, human trafficking, gang crimes or felony drug crimes;
- require local jail officials to annually report to the legislature on compliance with detainers issued by ICE; and
- make law enforcement immune from civil and criminal liability for compliance.
The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on February 22 and the House Rules Committee on February 28 before it passed the full House by a vote of 71-44, essentially along party lines. Three Republicans were excused while two Democrats, Reps. Carla Cunningham (D- Charlotte) and Marvin Lucas (D-Spring Lake) did not vote.
Upon receipt of the House bill, the North Carolina Senate referred it directly to the Rules Committee, which could indicate it is a priority for leadership and will be considered by the full Senate soon.
Since HB 10 does not significantly differ from the previous bills Gov. Cooper vetoed, it is likely to be vetoed as well. However, North Carolina only requires a three-fifths supermajority to override a veto. As a result of the 2022 elections, Republicans control the Senate chamber, with 30 seats to the Democrats 20, giving them a veto-proof supermajority. They are also close to a supermajority in the House as well, controlling 71 seats to the Democrats’ 49. In the House, therefore, only one Democrat vote would be needed to override a veto.
The North Carolina legislature is scheduled to adjourn until August 31, which, with enough support, gives the Senate time to pass HB 10 as well as attempt a potential veto override if needed.