Gov. Roy Cooper has said from the beginning that HB 370 — the one requiring local law enforcement to cede authority over their prisoners to Immigration and Customs Enforcement — cannot see the light of day.
He called it “unconstitutional” just this week — and not just because ICE detainers have been found to be unconstitutional by violating the Fourth Amendment, protecting against illegal search and seizure, and unreasonable detention. And not just because it exposes counties to civil action for which ICE would not be held liable.
HB 370 is also illegal because, according to federal law, immigration enforcement falls under federal jurisdiction, and not state.
Even former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes — longstanding stalwart of local Republican politics — would not honor ICE detainers while he was in office, saying immigration did not fall under the purview of the sheriff’s office.
Barnes was one of seven white sheriffs who lost re-election bids to black candidates in 2018, in the state’s seven largest counties. They won largely on platforms that included a pushback against a culture of white supremacy in law enforcement, and accountability to black and brown citizens who had felt victimized by law enforcement in the past.
When coupled with this development, HB 370 looks like nothing more than the General Assembly attempting to show dominance over duly elected sheriffs in counties that comprise almost 40 percent of the state’s population. Like when a dog tries to sit on your head.
But the passing of illegal laws and marginalization of the majority is, as they say, par for the course in our state’s Republican circles.
Mecklenburg and Wake sheriffs walked out of a Senate hearing on the bill last week. The NAACP and the ACLU are against it. Latinx-rights groups, civil-rights organizations, ministers’ groups, student organizations, strict constitutionalists stand against HB 370. Its only fans right now seem to be the NC Republican Party and others who don’t understand the separation of powers and rights outlined in the Constitution.
Though HB 370 sailed through the Republican-controlled Senate this week, it passed the House in April by just 12 votes, meaning there won’t be enough support to overturn a veto.
And that will be one less illegal law on the books in North Carolina.
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