It’s the time of year when North Carolina’s ultra-conservative legislators decide to spend long hours looking for ways to make life more difficult for immigrants, rather than looking for solutions to the pressing problems plaguing the state. The first anti-immigrant bill of 2023 has arrived.
In late January, 41 legislators from the N.C. House of Representatives, all Republicans, all white, introduced HB-10 to the North Carolina Legislature.
This law seeks, among other things, to require sheriff’s offices and county jail officials to collaborate with federal immigration agencies. In practice, this would mean that these local agencies would enforce immigration law, similar to the controversial 287(g) program. This legislation has already been tried several times in the past and failed. Why is there such determination to pass this bill?
The history of a failed anti-immigrant bill
In 2006, the George W. Bush Administration had a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between immigration authorities and local police and sheriff’s offices under section 287(g). With 287(g), immigration-- which constitutionally is an issue that only concerns the federal government-- passed into the hands of local agencies.
The result was a disaster. Officers began arresting immigrants for absurd offenses like a broken light in the vehicle or failing to obey a stop sign. They were taken to jail and then deported. An immigrant left for work in the morning but did not know if he or she would return home in the afternoon.
Over the years, multiple academic studies have shown that when immigration enforcement is assigned to local law enforcement agencies, an irreparable mistrust forms between the community and the authorities. This caused immigrants to stop reporting crimes of which they were victims, ultimately benefiting true criminals.
In 2018 and 2019, major North Carolina counties elected sheriffs who put an end to these collaborations between local law enforcement agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Since then, ultra-conservative North Carolina legislators, in a clear state of denial, have tried unsuccessfully, without justification and without legal backing, to pass immigration laws that do not fall within their purview.
Today, HB-10 is a stubborn response that goes against the democratic decision of various counties throughout the state. These counties decided not to collaborate with ICE and to leave the immigration issue in federal, not local, hands.
Is there a possibility that the anti-immigration bill will be approved?
In July of last year, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a similar anti-immigrant bill, SB-101. That bill sought to force state prisons, sheriff’s departments, and police to turn over information about certain detainees to immigration authorities.
“This law is only about scoring political points and using fear to divide North Carolinians…I know that current law already allows the state to incarcerate and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status,” Cooper said in 2022 when he vetoed SB-101, which he called “unconstitutional.”
Even though Cooper doesn’t support these anti-immigrant laws and Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly don’t have the votes to override the governor, this type of legislation shouldn’t be overlooked, no matter how far-fetched it sounds.
Voters must demand that our representatives get to work for the good of the state and stop using their public offices in their dreadful hobby of spreading senseless fear among the immigrant community.