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North Carolina Republicans want to fine sheriffs up to $25,500 a day if they don’t work with ICE

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: Hundreds of immigration activists, clergy members and others participate in a protest against President Donald Trump's immigration policies in front of the Federal Building on January 11, 2018 in New York City. As the Trump administration continues to focus their attention on deportations and the building of a new wall along the Mexican and American border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests are up. From late January through August 2017, arrests by ICE were up more than 43 percent since the same period in 2016. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Last November, a number of Republican sheriffs who worked hand in hand with Immigration and Customs Enforcement were voted out and replaced with Democrats who pledged to limit their cooperation with mass deportation agents. But now that the new sheriffs are following through on those promises, Republicans in one of those states are trying to overturn the will of the voters.

Republicans in North Carolina’s House of Representatives have introduced a bill “that would force sheriffs to work with ICE,” the News & Observer in Raleigh reports, “at the risk of incurring fines of up to $25,500 per day if they don’t.” Of course, these are the same Republicans who go on about supporting police and small government, but apparently attacking immigrant communities trumps all.

Among the bill’s targets would probably be new Sheriff Gerald Baker, who on his first day fulfilled a campaign pledge to end Wake County’s partnership with ICE and pull out of the 287(g) program, through which “ICE deputizes local or state law-enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.” In reality, it’s a program that is rife with racial profiling, costs counties millions, and tears families apart.

Baker’s office said it would “continue to monitor the bill.” Immigrant rights advocates, however, are in a state of alarm. “We have been actively having conversations about worst-case scenarios with all the new sheriffs that have removed 287g from their counties,” said El Pueblo Inc.’s Mary Jose Espinosa, “and this was definitely one of those that we definitely did not want to happen.” 

The bill has the support of the GOP House leader and a number of other Republicans. It could, however, be blocked by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper—and he should absolutely oppose it. Immigrant communities have already been in a state of alarm, following ICE’s targeting of the state with raids and admitting, as ThinkProgress notes, that those raids “are what happens when local [sheriffs’] offices don’t cooperate with the agency.” How’s that for some thuggery?

Republicans love to demonize pro-immigrant policies, but it’s a fact that when immigrants are able to trust law enforcement, communities become safer for all. Nor should local law enforcement be forced to do the job of federal immigration agents. ICE is already getting far too many billions of dollars to do that as it is.

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