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HB 370 Veto Cements Sheriff’s Controversial ICE Policy

Local ICE offices in southwest Charlotte (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Displayed in the window of the local Comunidad Colectiva organizer Stefania Arteaga’s Charlotte office is a poster board, printed on which is an open letter calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the infamous HB 370, which would mandate that local sheriffs’ offices throughout the state cooperate with Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE) by keeping undocumented immigrants in custody based on the federal agency’s requests.

Though Cooper didn’t pass by Arteaga’s office this week, it seems he got the message, as the governor announced his veto of the law on Wednesday, with a statement that called the bill “unconstitutional.”

“This bill … 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 their counties,” said Cooper, who served as the state’s top law enforcement officer for 16 years as attorney general.

In Mecklenburg County, Sheriff Garry McFadden’s refusal to honor ICE detainers has been a point of contention between his office and the federal agency since his election in November 2018. ICE officials have made public statements decrying his office’s policies and singling out immigrants who committed crimes after being released from his office’s custody.

McFadden was elected in large part because he ran on a platform that called for an end to the 287g law that kept the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with ICE.

On Monday, McFadden held a press conference in Raleigh saying that he and other newly elected sheriffs around the state who have implemented similar policies — such as Bobby Kimbrough in Forsyth County and Gerald Baker in Wake County — were being targeted by ICE and state leaders.

Gary McFadden speaks at a June press conference about criticism from ICE officials. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

“House Bill 370 has a clear agenda against the newly elected African-American sheriffs,” he said. “We don’t want to fight, we just want to serve our community and be respected as sheriffs.”

The next day, HB 370 passed through the N.C. House of Representatives with a 62-53 vote that was split along party lines.

Following news of the veto on Wednesday, Mark Michalec, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9, released a statement decrying the governor’s decision.

“The bill was designed to keep families safe from illegal immigrants who are committing crimes in our communities,” Michalec stated. “Sheriff McFadden is allowing these dangerous criminals out of jail and free to commit violent crimes against law-abiding citizens. The decision to not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to frustrate our law enforcement professionals who must deal with these repercussions.”

Also on Wednesday, Arteaga and others involved in the Stop HB370 Coalition praised the governor for his quick decision to kill what they called the “Show Me Your Papers Law.”

In a press release, Comunidad Colectiva organizer Lelia Maribel pointed out that McFadden has simply been honoring the campaign promises that voters put him in office to implement.

“The NC GOP introduced HB 370 in retaliation against those voters who understood that ICE did not belong in our county,” Maribel stated. “Despite clear opposition, Republicans pushed through a bill that would violate due process, misuse taxpayer money, and undermine the will of the voters. We are glad that the Governor stood with the people of Mecklenburg County today, and call on all our elected officials to stand with us, sustain the veto.”

It does not appear that supporters of the bill would have enough votes to override Gov. Cooper’s veto.

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