North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) has joined the “sanctuary city” debate.  He vetoed House Bill 370, “An Act to Require Compliance with Immigration Detainers and Administrative Warrants,” on August 21, 2019.

Some county sheriffs in North Carolina have been refusing to uphold ICE detainers or coordinate with ICE regarding individuals in custody.  They argue that it is their job to enforce and comply with applicable state and federal laws, not to enforce immigration laws.  This led ICE spokesman, Bryan Cox, to remark that “as a direct result of this policy, persons [in the affected counties] will see an increased presence of ICE.”  In other words, without the sheriffs’ cooperation, ICE will conduct more enforcement actions in local neighborhoods and at work sites.  This is not an empty threat.  Since 2017, sanctuary jurisdictions have been targeted for ICE raids, “shame and blame” report listings and threats of withholding federal DOJ grants.

In response to the sheriffs’ actions, North Carolina lawmakers passed House Bill 370.  Under the bill:

  • Confinement facilities would have to comply with all federal detainers and administrative warrants;
  • Sheriffs could be removed from office for non-compliance;
  • Confinement facilities would have to submit annual reports regarding compliance with ICE detainers; and
  • Those in charge of confinement facilities would need to investigate the legal status of any person in their custody charged with a criminal offense and query ICE if they are unable to determine the individual’s legal status.

Governor Cooper, in his veto message, stated:

“This legislation is simply about scoring political points and using fear to divide North Carolina.  As the former top law enforcement of our state (Cooper is the former four-term Attorney General of the state), I know that current law allows the state to jail and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status.  This bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating sheriffs to do the job of federal agents, using local resources that could hurt their ability to protect counties.”

President Donald Trump reacted to the veto in a tweet:

“North Carolina Governor Cooper Vetoed a Bill that would have required Sheriffs to cooperate with ICE.  This is a terrible decision for the great people of North Carolina.  He should reverse his decision and get back to the basics of fighting crime!”

To date, at least seven states including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and Texas have been involved in legislation and litigation over sanctuary policies.  With House Bill 370 and Governor Cooper’s veto, North Carolina now joins that company.  Both Governor Cooper and President Trump will be on the ballot seeking re-election to their respective offices in 2020.