RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The same day that the North Carolina Senate was overriding a bill to remove sheriffs from issuing some pistol permits, another controversial bill involving sheriffs passed through the state House.

House Bill 10, which requires sheriffs to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – commonly referred to simply as ICE – was approved, 71-44, on second reading Tuesday afternoon. A voice vote on third reading was approved by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), although the “no” votes were discernibly louder, sending the bill to the Senate.

Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-High Point) was one of three Democrats who voted with all Republicans in support of the bill. Brockman’s legislative aide said in response to an email from WGHP that Brockman has “no comment on the veto override” – which has nothing to do with the ICE bill.

Brockman was joined by Rep. Tricia Ann Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) and Rep. Michael Wray (D-Halifax) in voting yes. No Republicans voted no. Five members didn’t vote.

House Bill 10, titled “Require Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE” bill, seeks to ensure that all sheriffs inform ICE within 48 hours when they take into custody someone whose citizenship is under question.

Most sheriffs already follow that procedure – Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), its presenting sponsor said “90 out of 100” – and some, particularly in larger counties, have protested ICE’s procedures by processing the person in custody without notifying ICE.

Hall said he had been working on this bill for three years because of that issue. “We have a small number of sheriffs in our state who have completely stopped working with ICE, communicating with ICE,” he said.

He used the pejorative term “illegal alien” by citing “example after example across the state” in counties in which sheriffs “were not cooperating with ICE” released a person on bond even after that person was charged with a serious crime.

“Time after time, we’ve seen results: That person commits additional crimes. This bill would put a stop to that,” Hall said.

Not all sheriffs support

Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers

There is a companion bill in the Senate, SB 50, that has not been moved out of the Rules Committee, but some 11 sheriffs – including Danny Rogers of Guilford County – oppose both, and this week they sent a letter to legislators asking them to defeat the bills.

These sheriffs say that this legislation detracts from their primary roles of enforcing local laws and managing jails. “These bills will make our counties less safe,” they wrote. 

They also raised their concerns about individual rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and prohibit the release of individuals on bail “even if they are eligible for release under North Carolina law.” They cite the potential liability for sheriffs because of constitutional violations. 

Those issues came up during a lengthy debate on Tuesday. An amendment to double the number of state inspectors from two to four was approved, 114-1.

“What hasn’t been discussed are the economic impacts on the state,” Rep. Laura Budd (D-Mecklenburg) said. “This bill impacts all counties and doesn’t have good sound fiscal policy.”

She cited that the reimbursement from ICE doesn’t cover the cost for intake and housing of prisoners that ICE takes. “Sheriffs are going to pay to do the federal government’s job for them,” she said, then cited the liability the sheriffs had mentioned in their letter.

“What happens if an inmate is sick, injured or dies or is wrongly detained?” she said. “The federal government does not provide indemnification. We will pay.”

A cautionary tale

Rep. Maria Cervania (D-Wake) (NCGA)

One key speech during the debate was a personal story conveyed by Rep. Maria Cervania (D-Wake). She described how she was in the process of moving to North Carolina and was leaving church one Sunday when a sheriff’s deputy pulled her over on the interstate and told her she was “driving with an out-of-state plate.”

She said she explained she was in the process of moving and was visiting her husband and family for the weekend. She produced her license and registration that matched the name and address associated with her license plate.

“Then the deputy approached the car again and asked the last question I never thought he would ask,” she said. “He said, ‘Ma’am, where were you born? I said, Oakland, California. He said, ‘I mean what country were you born in?’ I said Oakland, California.

“Then he asked me to get out of my car. I had been leaving church. I was on a freeway. I was in my Sunday best. Standing there.

“He continually asked me where was I born. My father served 20 years in the U.S. Navy and worked another 20 years for the Veterans Administration. I was born in a Naval hospital in Oakland, California.”

At that point, Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus) interrupted Cervania and suggested she “keep her remarks to the bill.”

Cervania, slightly daunted, did just that.

“He [the deputy] said, ‘If you don’t tell me the truth, we are going to the nearest ICE detention center, and you will be deported,” she said.

“That persisted for three hours. I don’t know where he was going to take me. Where were they going to deport me? I didn’t know if I’d see my husband or family again. I didn’t know.

“No one should have to go through that. … Those three hours were the scariest. What happened to me was not unique. Sometimes deputies don’t know. They will detain you. They will charge you.”

Is it necessary?

Rep. Ken Fontenot (R-Wilson) said the bill will help to protect children. “Why should law enforcement not cooperate with law enforcement?” he asked. “We cannot afford not to work together.”

But Rep. Abe Jones (D-Wake) said, “I suggest that the problem that this is trying to solve is not very great. We are passing a law to cover the whole state for a very small problem. If the federal government wants your guy, they come and get him.”

Before the vote, the nonprofit El Pueblo, which assists Latinos in North Carolina, issued a statement that said, in part: “HB10 is NOT about Community Safety. HB10 is about attacking the immigrant community. HB10 is about spreading fear among law enforcement and our community. HB10 is about retaliation against Black sheriffs who opted against collaborations with ICE and the voters who elected those sheriffs. HB10 is an attack against democracy!”