COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Three local sheriffs are battling a bill that would reform immigration rules in the United States, allowing a path for citizenship for millions who are in the country illegally.
Sheriffs Chris Batten (Columbus), John Ingram (Brunswick), and Prentis Benston (Bladen) joined more than 130 sheriffs from around the country in sending a letter to members of Congress opposing the plan that is being considered.
Tuesday afternoon, the Senate voted to move forward with the landmark immigration bill. It's the first procedural hurdle for the legislation that would open the door to citizenship for millions.
The vote came hours after President Barack Obama appeared at the White House to prod Congress to send him a bill by fall.
Many Republicans are making it clear that they'll require significant changes to the bill to be able to support it on final passage, particularly in the area of border security.
That's one of the reasons Batten opposes the bill.
He said it does nothing to increase security at the border and does not provide for additional immigration officers.
Batten is also concerned because he said deported undocumented immigrants would be able to return to the country and become citizens, even if they have lengthy criminal records.
"It's definitely a public safety issue," Batten said. "When they're allowing convicted felons from our system of government here in the United States to be deported back to Mexico under our US rule and then allow them to come back to our country and wipe their record clean. It's a problem."
We reached out to the sheriffs in Pender and New Hanover counties to find out where they stand on immigration reform. We're waiting to hear back from them.
Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.