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ICE sheriffs bill fast-tracked through General Assembly

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The controversial “ICE” sheriffs cooperation legislation has been successfully fast-tracked through the General Assembly in the final week of the regular 2022 session.

Senate Bill 101 resurfaced last week after being dormant since March 2021. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, is among the bill cosponsors.

The Republican-sponsored SB101, titled “Require Cooperation with ICE 2.0,” cleared the House floor by a partisan 65-47 vote Thursday after objections were stated by several Democrat legislators.

Since the House made a slight change to SB101, the Senate was required to agree or reject the change.

The Senate voted Friday 25-19 — also along partisan lines — to accept the changes.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has 10 days to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

Because there were no House or Senate Democrat votes in support of SB101, it is likely that a Cooper veto will stand.

At least 32 Senate and 72 House votes are required to overturn a governor's veto.

SB101 is similar in legislation to House Bill 370, which Cooper successfully vetoed in August 2019.

Cooper's office could not be immediately reached for comment about his plans for SB101.

“The governor has previously expressed concern about politically motivated laws that allow Washington, D.C., to supersede local law enforcement’s ability to keep our communities safe, and this appears to be one of those,” Mary Scott Winstead, deputy communications director for Cooper, said Tuesday in discussing SB101.

Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, and primary bill sponsor, said changes made to SB101 addresses Cooper’s concerns in HB370.

Edwards told the Rules and Operations committee that SB101 is necessary because “a number of sheriffs have refused to cooperate” with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“This is a bill intended to keep criminals off of the streets,” Edwards said.

Rep. Dustin Hall, R-Catawba, said during the House floor that SB101 would prevent sheriffs who aren’t cooperating with ICE officials “from putting politics over public safety.”

Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. wasn’t available for comment on the latest versions of SB101.

Kimbrough opposed previous legislative efforts involving SB101 in March 2021 and HB370 in 2019. Similar opposition has been stated by other urban county sheriffs.

Edwards cited what he calls increased interest in SB101 from sheriffs that border the urban counties “that crime is escalating and more and more incidents of human trafficking, drug use and increased gang activity.”

SB101 details

The current version of SB101 would require sheriffs to:

* Inform ICE when a person charged with certain felony offenses is in custody and legal residency or U.S. citizenship status is undetermined.

According to SB101, those felony offenses are: homicide; rape and other sex offenses; kidnapping and abduction; human-trafficking offenses; certain gang-related offenses; an A1 misdemeanor or felony assault, such as assault on a female and the “other most serious misdemeanors;” and violation of a domestic violence protective order.

“If this bill becomes law, then it would be mandatory” that sheriffs cooperate with the ICE detainer, said co-primary sponsor Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Craven.

* Require a judicial official to order that a prisoner subject to a detainer and administrative warrant be held in custody for 48 hours or until ICE resolves the request.

The daily cost for detaining a person for potential ICE pickup is between $137 and $300, depending on the jail, Edwards said Tuesday. On Thursday, Edwards said the net cost per detainee is $10 to $20.

* Create reporting requirements related to ICE queries.

Edwards said the current version of SB101 “does make the same requirements of sheriff offices across the state (as HB370) with two major differences.”

“Instead of requiring a query of ICE on any infraction of anyone who is brought into a jail, it only requires an inquiry when someone is accused of the most heinous crimes.”

Edwards said the second major difference reflects concerns expressed by Cooper about potential criminal penalties for sheriffs who decline to cooperate with ICE involving jail detainees.

The initial version of SB101 would have made it a class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a 120-day jail sentence and a discretionary fine. Subsequent language would have made an uncooperative sheriff or other law-enforcement official subject to a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a 20-day jail sentence and a $200 fine.

HB370 would have allowed a Superior Court judge to remove a sheriff or police officer who didn’t follow the legislation’s provisions and failed to cooperate with ICE agents.

“The penalties are eliminated in the 2.0 version,” Edwards said Tuesday.

SB101 background

In March 2021, the state Senate approved SB101 along partisan lines by a 27-20 vote.

The bill sat in House Rules and Operations until being sent Friday to Judiciary 4.

SB101 was amended Tuesday to change the first due date of the annual reporting from Oct. 1, 2022, to Oct. 1, 2023, and the effective date of the legislation to Dec. 1, 2022, from Dec. 1, 2021.

“What SB101 will do is require local law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials in the interest of public safety amid growing public concern ... about people who have come across our borders illegally,” Edwards said.

SB101 creates a process for a judicial official to follow for every person in custody who is subject to an ICE detainer or administrative warrant.

Meanwhile, SB101 excludes state and local law-enforcement officers or agencies from “having criminal or civil liability for action taken pursuant to an order issued” in the legislation.

Rep. Vernetta Alston, D-Durham, said she opposed SB101 primarily because of the oversight and financial burden it places on sheriff offices that “adds to their workload,” as well as questioning the constitutionality of the 48-hour confinement period.

Edwards countered by saying if SB101 were to impose a financial burden on sheriff offices, “it would be an illustration of just how desperately this bill is needed ... because it means there would be more folks charged with heinous crimes required to be detained.”

According to ICE’s website, there are 15 local law enforcement agencies in North Carolina listed as participating entities in what is known as the 287(g) program.

That includes the Alamance, Randolph and Rockingham sheriff’s offices in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

“We are a law-abiding law enforcement agency,” Kimbrough said in March 2021. “If somehow this becomes law, then we will at that point comply with it.

“But it is not law, and there are many who will be opposing this because detaining someone once they have met the conditions of their release is not only illegal, but it is also wrong.”

Edwards said the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association “was in strong support of (HB370) in 2019. On this version, they have chosen to take no action, which to me says that they are in still in full support of the concept.”

Hall repeated the association’s strong support during the House floor debate.

The sheriffs’ association “has not issued any statement on this legislation, last year or this year,” Eddie Caldwell, the association’s general counsel, said Tuesday.

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@rcraverWSJ

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