In vetoing a bill calling for better state and local cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is favoring the interests of illegal immigrants over basic public safety, the state's Republicans argued Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Cooper, a Democrat, nixed a proposal that would have made it mandatory for state and local law enforcement to comply with detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Under the plan, sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement departments would have been required to hold detainees who are illegal immigrants until ICE personnel could come retrieve them. Those who did not honor the requests would have been subject to dismissal, The Wall Street Journal reported.
But those plans were set aside after Cooper opted not to support them.
“Law enforcement officers have a sworn responsibility to protect their citizens -- and that includes cooperating with federal authorities,” state Sen. Chuck Edwards, a Republican from Henderson County, told The News & Observer of Raleigh. “Governor Cooper, who prefers to pander to his far-left supporters, we will protect North Carolinians and plan to override his irresponsible veto.”
"Law enforcement officers have a sworn responsibility to protect their citizens -- and that includes cooperating with federal authorities. [But] Governor Cooper ... prefers to pander to his far-left supporters."
Edwards pointed to last week’s case in Mecklenburg County, where the city of Charlotte is located, in which ICE officers picked up a Honduran man who had been previously arrested on rape and child-sex-offense charges.
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office rejected an ICE detainer request two months ago and released the man from custody after he fulfilled court-ordered conditions, including paying bail, the Journal reported.
But Cooper defended his veto Wednesday.
“This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina,” the governor said in a statement. “This bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating sheriffs to do the job of federal agents.”
“This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina.”
The state House voted in favor of the measure Tuesday along party lines. The state Senate approved the bill in June. Republican lawmakers, who have a majority in both houses, could move to override the governor’s veto but would need some Democrats to cross party lines.
Republican state Rep. Destin Hall accused Cooper of being a “sanctuary governor,” referring to "sanctuary city" policies adopted in at least 10 states meant to shield illegal immigrants from deportation and limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, the Journal reported.
The issue of immigration is expected to be at the center of state debates as Cooper faces re-election next year.
Republicans in North Carolina's House introduced House Bill 370 last year in response to the election of sheriffs in some of North Carolina’s largest and more liberal counties, including Wake, Mecklenburg and Durham, who advocated against ICE during their campaigns, The News & Observer reported. Those sheriffs said they would not hold illegal immigrants after a judge or magistrate approved their release.