NC House Bill 370 Moves Forward and Passes the House
Last week, NC House Bill 370: Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE was heard twice—once in committee and then two days later on the House Floor. During the hearing in the Rules, Calendar, and Operations Committee, various Sheriffs who ran on commitments to end certain ICE partnerships spoke out against the proposed legislation and also defended themselves against the label of being a “Sanctuary Sheriff.” They emphasized their dedication to protecting ALL community members and their history of doing so prior to their election wins back in 2018. One Sheriff spoke for the proposed legislation—the Sheriff of Rockingham County, Sam Page. Sam Page routinely sends out requests to the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association members requesting they further comply with ICE and has close ties to the Trump Administration, even pushing for the crowdfunding effort to build the wall at the southern border. The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association General Counsel also requested that the committee table the proposed legislation until the Sheriff’s Association could convene to discuss these matters further. General Counsel Edmond Caldwell also noted that there was limited communication between the bill sponsors and the Sheriff’s Association prior to that moment. Within the next two days, the Sheriff’s Association would meet and draft a statement against the legislation. House representatives received that while other legislation was being heard on the House Floor—causing leadership to caucus for a brief time before ultimately coming back for the final vote. Voting fell along party lines and the legislation will now go to the Senate.
Two weeks ago, after House Bill 370’s first hearing, a coalition of community members held a press conference in front of the Governor’s Office to encourage him to veto the legislation if it passes both houses. The Governor has yet to make a public comment about the proposed legislation or the ICE arrests that occurred back in February.
Last week, Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin—1 of 4 Sheriffs in the state with a 287(g) program—appeared on The State of Things to discuss the changes he’s implementing in Western, NC and to further detail his continued participation in the 287(g) program. This comes after the Henderson County Board of Commissioners encouraged him to keep the program, NO MATTER THE COSTS. Yet, these same commissioners recognized the diminishing returns for this program in previous years. On April 27th, community members will respond to this and ICE arrests in general during a time to honor and celebrate the resistance of the community aka Honrar y Celebrar La Resistencia de Nuestra Comunidad.
And on Saturday, I spent time moderating a forum with the Interim Siler City Police Chief Jean Miller and the Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson. This was part of El Viniculo Hispano’s Legal Fair/Foro Legal. Unfortunately, the Lee County Sheriff—who assisted in the recent HSI raid in Sanford, NC—was unable to join us. Siler City, became the newest participant in the Building Integrated Communities (BIC) Program, a program through The Latino Migration Project. A report from this initial phase of participation was completed in March of 2018. 7 recommendations for Public Safety came out of that report:
- Participants suggested to continue the “National Night Out” event and welcomed the opportunity for local police to connect with residents and merchants. One suggestion was to give law enforcement officials a tour of participating local Latino businesses during the event.
- Participants seek more bilingual police-community education related to youth drug and gun violence prevention.
- Building relationships between foreign-born and law enforcement must not be a onetime event, but must be a continuous, ongoing effort with regular events and interactions.
- Participants mentioned Habitat for Humanity as a model for good interaction between residents and fire department staff and police, who visit regularly and are friendly.
- Improved communication in Spanish about police procedures and “Know your rights” information about police encounters.
- More transparency and data sharing.
- Opportunities to provide input about new hires, including the new Police Chief.
At the forum, I was able to ask for updates about these along with additional questions about ICE collaboration. Sheriff Roberson emphasized his commitment to serving all community members, reiterated his stance to not honor ICE detainers, does give ICE a courtesy call when someone is released from jail, and is opposed to HB370. Interim Police Chief Miller responded directly to the BIC recommendations and also noted that her office is looking into the Faith Action ID program. Miller explained that part of their initiative to be more transparent is to make traffic stop data available on the Siler City Police Department website even though this type of reporting is only required for agencies of locations with greater than 10,000 people. She also emphasized that the search for a new Police Chief included an orientation to the growing Latinx population in the city. Both reiterated that officers/deputies have the discretion to make decisions when stopping someone who is driving without a license and both encouraged people to report crimes—noting their willingness to support individuals seeking to apply for a U-Visa.