GREENSBORO — Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers withdrew his support late Tuesday of an alternative proposal by the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association to N.C. House and N.C. Senate bills that would require local law enforcement agents to uphold detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Rogers also remains opposed to the bills.
House Bill 370 and Senate Bill 637 would require jails to check the legal status of any person who is charged with a crime and hold prisoners for 48 hours regardless of pretrial release conditions if ICE requests a detainer for that person. The House bill also requires the jail fulfill any request made by the federal government.
Rogers said in May that he would not enforce a 48-hour hold provision in ICE detainers after an inmate’s state charges had been resolved, unless ICE agents presented a warrant or order from a federal judge or magistrate.
On Wednesday, local immigrants thanked Rogers for his opposition to the House bill.
“We are grateful that he has heard our voices and that of faith leaders and African-American voters across the county over the last several months,” Laura Garduño Garcia of Siembra NC said in a news release.
Siembra NC, a grassroots organization that advocates for immigrants who are in the country legally and illegally, said in the news release that 200 Guilford County voters signed an open letter to Rogers asking him to oppose any version of HB 370.
“This bill would only create more fear that will keep our kids from learning,” Todd Warren, the president of the Guilford County Association of Educators, said in the release.
Opponents of the bills say they are worried that crime victims would fear deportation if they reported it. Under the House bill, the hold requirements wouldn’t apply to victims or witnesses.
Under the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association proposal, revised May 16:
- A magistrate decides whether there is probable cause to believe there is a pending ICE detainer or administrative warrant against an inmate.
- State and local agencies would not face civil and criminal penalties.
- Inmate holds would be 96 hours instead of the federal government’s required 48-hour hold.
Rogers originally supported the proposal drafted by the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association, or NCSA, but after it was revised he asked his legal team to review it, said Max Benbassat, Rogers’ spokesman, in a news release.
“Based on the review, Sheriff Rogers has some significant concerns about the measures proposed by the NCSA,” Benbassat said in an email Tuesday night. “As a result, he is respectfully withdrawing his support for the NCSA’s proposal effective today.”
Benbassat said Rogers’ concerns stem from constitutional and legal flaws, including violations of the U.S. Constitution’s right to due process and the possible liability of violating that constitutional right.
On Wednesday morning, Benbassat released a letter from the attorney for the sheriff’s office, Jim Secor, that explained Rogers’ concerns in more detail.
One concern was that the proposal doubled the amount of time an inmate would be held and doesn’t offer any provision that would allow a relative or someone else to prove an inmate’s legal status during the 96-hour hold. That provision is allowed under the Senate bill.
“It is unlikely that an inmate at the jail is going to have the documents he or she needs to contest an ICE detainer,” Secor wrote. “Yet the NCSA’s proposal contains no provisions to allow an inmate to re-open the hearing during the 96 hour period in circumstances where they may be able to get a relative to bring in a copy of a ‘Green Card’ or similar document following the initial hearing before the magistrate.”
Under the NCSA’s proposal it would be up to a magistrate to determine if there is probable cause to believe an ICE detainer or administrative arrest warrant exists.
“The magistrate’s review process proposed by the NCSA is a good faith effort to insert due process where none now exists in the original House and Senate bills,” Secor wrote. “That said, under the NCSA’s proposal, the scope of the magistrate’s review is so limited that it provides, in our opinion, insufficient judicial scrutiny of whether probable cause exists to support an ICE detainer and/or ICE administrative arrest warrant.”’
But Secor said he feels due-process problems could better be fixed at the federal level.
Further, he said, the ICE detainer would not be based on sworn or affirmed written statements by an ICE agent and does not make a clear distinction between the criminal act of entering the country illegally versus the civil violation of overstaying a visa.
Rogers’ announcement came before Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the N.C. Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the revised House bill and the NCSA proposal.