Debate continues over bill that would force NC sheriffs to comply with ICE

North Carolina sheriffs came together on Wednesday to stand against new immigration legislation that they say is forcing them to help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 

Sheriff Garry McFadden, a vocal opponent of the 287(g) program, and now House Bill 370, says lawmakers have put a target on sheriffs' backs across the state, and are making their jobs more difficult.

The legislation would require police and sheriffs to check everyone they arrest against the federal immigration database. 

The new bill would also require officers to hold people on detainer ICE and would require arrestees with an ICE detainer to appear before a magistrate judge. 

On Wednesday, McFadden accused lawmakers of mixing politics with law enforcement policies and maintains that he will not back down. House Bill 370 also threatens to remove sheriffs from office if they don't comply with ICE. 

RELATED: Charlotte leaders push back against bill forcing sheriffs to work with ICE

“House Bill 370 is solely controlled by the General Assembly who we all know now is led by Republicans, and they are on a fast track to remove us as urban sheriff’s because we are leading the seven largest counties in North Carolina,” McFadden said.

The office of NC House Speaker Tim Moore, a co-sponsor of the bill, sent out a press release on Wednesday reinforcing his support for the legislation, calling those sheriffs who have chosen not to cooperate with ICE detainers “sanctuary sheriff’s.” 

Debate over the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office’s cooperation with ICE intensified after a suspect in the country illegally was arrested on May 15 for crimes including assault on a female, communicating threats, felony larceny, simple assault, and injury to personal property. 

Despite having an ICE detainer, Luis Pineda-Anchecta was released from jail on May 23. He was arrested again just two days later following a nine-hour standoff with Charlotte Mecklenburg police and charged with several domestic crimes. He was released again on June 1.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to Pineda-Anchecta’s release, saying "the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office did not honor the detainer and did not notify ICE about his release from custody."

Sheriff McFadden fired back on June 5 (http://www.fox46charlotte.com/news/local-news/mcfadden-responds-to-us-attorney-s-office-says-he-will-not-honor-detainers), saying the Attorney’s Office was trying to put blame on him and insinuate that his decision not to participate in 287(g) was putting the community at risk.  

"I also am very disappointed in the U.S. Attorney's Office for saying I may not be committed to the safety of this community. I think that my three-plus decades of service to this community will speak for itself," he said. "Why am I, Sheriff Garry McFadden, being personally blamed?"

Several state representatives, however, feel that cooperation with ICE and ICE detainers is vital to maintaining safety.

“These sheriffs are releasing folks onto the streets who should not be released,” Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) said. “It’s time to put a stop to that.  It’s the sheriffs’ job to protect the community.” 

The legislation also requires sheriffs’ offices to track and report the number of queries they make to federal officials under its provisions.