The Spread of Anti-Immigrant Legislation Forcing Localities to Cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

State lawmakers are introducing preemptive bills that force collaboration with ICE in response to popular pressure and electoral wins that have prompted local law enforcement to disentangle their policing from voluntary federal immigration work. [1]

House Bill Proposal 370: Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE (HB 370) in North Carolina includes various pieces of similar proposals previously introduced in North Carolina. Yet, this bill also draws from Senate Bill 4  (SB 4) in Texas, which passed in 2018. The hope for immigrant and civil rights groups HB370 is that Governor Cooper will veto the bill. In addition, the bill sponsor–Destin Hall—explicitly stated that ICE approached him and others to push this through the General Assembly, a connection that is not as apparent in other southern states.

This year, two similar proposals were introduced in the Virginia State Legislature in Senate Bill 1156 (SB 1156), which would prohibit “sanctuary” localities and in House Bill 2270 (HB 2270), which would require Sheriffs to report information to ICE. These bills would eventually be vetoed by Governor Ralph Northam.

Unfortunately, late in 2018, two ant-immigrant bills passed in Tennessee and the Governor was not willing to veto this legislation. SB2333 restricted the use of identifications, similar to North Carolina’s HB318, which passed in 2015. And SB2332/HB2315, signed into law, and enacted on January 1, 2019 would require local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE and punishes “sanctuary” localities.

And on April 9, 2019, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson agreed to sign an “anti-sanctuary” bill (SB411), which would also cut off funding to “sanctuary” localities even though previous commentators noted there were no sanctuary cities prior to the passing of the bill. Ironically, anti-immigrant SB411 passed while more “pro-immigrant” bills passed, including HB1552 granting nursing licenses to DACA recipients and HB1684 granting in-state tuition to the same group.

And in FloridaSB168: The Rule of Law Adherence Act that bans all “sanctuary” policies is moving quickly through the Senate. In 2018, CS/HB 9: Federal Immigration Enforcement was also proposed, which was a previous version of SB168. And in 2016, HB 675/SB 872 was also proposed, which would force law enforcement agencies to honor ICE detainers.

Although HB38: An Act relating to sanctuary cities and universities was proposed in Kentucky in the 2019 legislative session, it did not pass. In West Virginia, HB2808 and HB2607 were both introduced in early January. The first requires cooperation with ICE and the latter is an anti-sanctuary bill.

Surprisingly, little attention has focused on a specialized unit of immigration enforcement housed within the Department of Public Safety in South Carolina, which probably limits any need to propose/adjust immigration enforcement practices at the local level. The South Carolina Immigration Enforcement Unit, began in 2011 to systematize immigration enforcement practices across the state. Reporters for the The Post and Courier also note that it may the only one of its kind.

The mission of the Immigration Enforcement Unit is to deter, disrupt and eliminate criminal activity associated with illegal immigration by enforcing immigration laws pursuant to Federal and State statutes. Develop immigration enforcement training programs to be offered to local law enforcement agencies; assist local law enforcement agencies with proper implementation, management and enforcement of applicable immigration laws.

[1] Some law enforcement jurisdictions across the United States have chosen to eliminate their voluntary cooperation with ICE in the following areas: termination of 287(g) Program; termination of Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with ICE; refusal to authorize a rider to US Marshals IGSA to detain immigrants for ICE; refusal to honor detainer requests (or “holds”); and/or refusal to honor any ICE request for detention absent a judicial warrant.