RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Representatives from Columbus and Pender counties sponsored legislation filed Monday they say is aimed at enhancing cooperation between county sheriffs in North Carolina and federal officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
House Bill 370, Require Sheriff Cooperation with ICE, compels sheriffs to fulfill detainer requests from the federal government for illegal immigrants incarcerated for being charged with a crime.
The bill also makes it unlawful for any county to prohibit federal immigration officials from entering or conducting immigration enforcement activities in a county jail, confinement facility, or other type of detention center.
“This is common sense legislation that shouldn’t have to be filed," Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus) said in a news release. "We are a nation of laws and this legislation simply enforces our federal immigration laws, because a piecemeal approach based on the political whims and outside influences is a public safety risk and creates confusion.”
The legislation does not apply to victims or witnesses of a criminal offense, anyone who is reporting an offense, or anyone who can establish lawful United States citizenship or legal immigration into the country.
HB 370 is sponsored by Jones, Rep. Carson Smith (R-Pender), Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), and Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln). The bill is co-sponsored by state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).
The legislation also requires sheriffs’ offices to track and report the number of queries they make to federal officials under its provisions. Smith, who served as Pender County sheriff for 16 years, said not following the language in the bill could cause unnecessary danger.
“When we know a criminal and illegal immigrant, charged with breaking North Carolina law, is in the custody of officers, to actively prevent their arrest by federal law enforcement officers puts innocent people at risk,” Smith said.
If the bill passes the state House and Senate, it will require a signature from Gov. Roy Cooper to become law.