North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is coming under heavy fire from GOP lawmakers at the state level — in addition to one very prominent critic at the national level — for nixing a bill that would have required both the state government and local authorities to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Additionally, the bill would have required law enforcement officials to determine the legal status of those being detained in their facilities, would have required them to make a request to ICE if a prisoner’s legal status couldn’t be determined, and would have forced them to, if requested, “allow an official of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the United States Department of Homeland Security to interview any person in custody of a county jail, local confinement facility, district confinement facility, satellite jail, or work release unit in person, via telephone, or via other electronic means within 24 hours of receiving the request.”
It also would have allowed for the dismissal of law enforcement officials who didn’t honor the requests. The bill passed Tuesday on a straight party-line vote.
Gov. Cooper claimed the bill had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with political strife.
“This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina,” Cooper, a former North Carolina attorney general, said in a statement after his veto, according to The Charlotte Observer.
“As the former top law enforcement officer of our state, I know that current law allows the state to jail and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status,” the statement continued.
“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 their counties.
“Finally, to elevate their partisan political pandering, the legislature has made a sheriff’s violation of this new immigration duty as the only specifically named duty violation that can result in a sheriff’s removal from office.”
Republicans, however, said that Cooper had made the move to appeal to his base at the expense of the North Carolinians’ safety.
“Law enforcement officers have a sworn responsibility to protect their citizens — and that includes cooperating with federal authorities,” Republican state Sen. Chuck Edwards said in a statement, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
“Unlike Gov. Cooper, who prefers to pander to his far-left supporters, we will protect North Carolinians and plan to override his irresponsible veto.”
Edwards noted a recent ICE arrest in Mecklenburg County, the county in which Charlotte is located.
In that case, a Honduran man who had previously been arrested on rape and child sex offenses was picked up by the agency. It later turned out that a detainer against him had been ignored by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, which released him after he posted bail and met other court-ordered conditions.
“Instead of signing this common-sense bill, Gov. Cooper is choosing to side with sheriffs like the Mecklenburg County Sheriff who in June ignored an ICE detainer request on a man in custody for rape and child sex offense charges and released this dangerous individual back into the community,” Edwards said.
Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Destin Hall called Cooper a “sanctuary governor.”
North Carolina officially has a Sanctuary Governor. Roy Cooper just vetoed H370, which would have simply required Sheriffs to honor ICE detainers for illegal immigrants charged with crimes in our state. #ncpol pic.twitter.com/07gmbjiPwn
— Rep. Destin Hall (@DestinHall) August 21, 2019
Over the weekend, President Donald Trump decided to weigh in, too.
“North Carolina Governor Cooper Vetoed a Bill that would have required Sheriffs to cooperate with Ice,” the president wrote in a Saturday tweet.
“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!”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2019
So, will the “sanctuary governor” end up getting his way? In terms of overriding the veto, Republicans have a lot of work to do if they’re going to make it happen.
If it remains a straight party-line vote, they don’t have the numbers. An override requires a three-fifths vote; the GOP doesn’t have that kind of advantage in either house of the North Carolina General Assembly.
However, Democrats could end up winning the battle and losing the war.
Keep in mind that immigration will play a major issue in the state during next year’s election. Gov. Cooper will be up for re-election and North Carolina is expected to be a swing state in the presidential campaign.
Keep in mind, too, that the bill was prompted because several new sheriffs in North Carolina’s larger, bluer counties have pledged not to hold prisoners who have ICE detainers on them.
Will that play well with voters — particularly when being tough on immigration worked for Trump in 2016?
From the sound of his tweet, the president is counting on it backfiring.
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