North Carolina lawmakers prepare to vote on House Bill 370

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The North Carolina state Senate is set to vote Monday on House Bill 370, which would require county sheriffs to cooperate with ICE detainment requests.

"There is no way that a bill like this can make communities safer. It actually makes communities less safe, because individuals would be more fearful to report crime," said Yesenia Polanco, the owner of Polanco Law, P.C. in Durham.

Polanco's firm handles cases involving undocumented immigrants in North Carolina and South Carolina, and has an attorney based in Lumpkin, Georgia, where detained immigrants are taken for legal proceedings.

In November, voters across the state elected a wave of sheriffs, who vowed to withdraw from the 287 (g) program.

Polanco, who initially came to the US in the 1980's as an undocumented immigrant fleeing war in El Salvador, said state lawmakers should respect the election results.

"It's too much interference from the state. The cities, the counties--we have our sovereign rights to elect our own sheriff," Polanco said.

HB 370 does have the support of the North Carolina Sheriff's Association, although seven local sheriffs have publicly opposed the proposal, including Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker.

On Wednesday, three of those sheriffs, including Baker, held a press conference in Raleigh to explain their positions.
In a follow-up tweet on Friday, the Sheriff's Office expanded on the issue, writing in part, "while it is true the NC Sheriff's Association has endorsed the current version of this bill, the seven sheriffs will continue to abide by any ultimate decision agreed upon by the lawmakers and Gov."

Counties who would refuse to cooperate with federal officials could face fines of up to $25,500 a day.

Back in March, House Speaker Tim Moore, one of the bill's co-sponsors said, "If the law-abiding citizens of North Carolina are subject to enforcement of state and federal law, then illegal immigrants detained for committing crimes should be, too."

HB 370 has passed the House and is pending in the North Carolina Senate. If passed, the legislation would become effective Dec. 1.

On Saturday, President Trump announced he was delaying ICE raids for two weeks, in an effort to allow Republicans and Democrats more time to work together and address issues at the border.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded to President Trump's decision, tweeting, "Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together." However, Polanco said the delay does not bring her relief.

"The message from the administration right now is to instill fear, and to use the immigrant community as pawns," said Polanco. "What I think we should focus on is not necessarily waiting for the raids to happen, but to continue to focus on educating the community on their rights so that they as families remain safe."
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