As sanctuary cities continue to proliferate, states must be proactive and innovative in their responses. They must pass laws that actually promote public safety and keep dangerous criminal aliens off the streets. North Carolina is considering a bill that would do just that, and other states should take note.
House Bill (HB) 452, sponsored by Representative Cody Henson (R), would require the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) to participate in the federal 287(g) program, which delegates federal authority to state and local agencies to more actively cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This isn’t unprecedented. Three states’ correction facilities already participate in 287(g): Arizona, Georgia, and (surprisingly enough) Massachusetts. All three require their departments of corrections to cooperate with ICE on detainers and perform immigration enforcement functions inside those prisons.
But those agreements are in place by administrative action only—orders or directives from whatever secretary or commissioner is currently in charge of the department. They aren’t permanent and can be terminated at any time. That is why states need to pass laws requiring 287(g) for their state-level law enforcement and corrections agencies.
HB 452 is a roadmap for other states to follow. It would require every law enforcement agency under the broad umbrella of DPS to perform immigration enforcement functions, including not just the state’s adult and juvenile prisons, but also Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE), the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI), the State Highway Patrol, and even the North Carolina National Guard. If the bill becomes law, it would dramatically improve how the state helps ICE locate and remove criminal aliens.
This is important for three reasons.
First, the agreement would give state personnel the authority they need to work more effectively with ICE. It would allow them to alert ICE to illegal aliens under arrest, give ICE access to state facilities, transfer inmates into ICE custody, and generate immigration detainers for illegal aliens in local jails or state prisons.
Second, it’s likely 287(g) could relieve the state of potential liability, because the agreement delegates federal authority to state personnel who are authorized and trained to perform immigration enforcement functions. It could also give participating state personnel access to legal representation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) if they are named as defendants in litigation. All of their legal costs might then be absorbed by DOJ if private counsel is hired.
Third, requiring 287(g) by state law rather than mere administrative action would make it significantly more difficult for any future governor or other official to terminate the agreement unilaterally unless the state legislature passes a new law. This assures the agreement will stay in place more or less permanently regardless of who’s in office.
That doesn’t mean it won’t receive criticism, of course. The open-borders lobby will predictably object to states participating in the 287(g) program, but they hardly have any real argument to make against it. Unlike many illegal aliens in the custody of county jails who are being held pre-trial, the majority of illegal aliens in a state prison have already been convicted and sentenced for a felony. Nevertheless, the facts could be ignored and the lawsuits could come.
Instead of bending to political pressure, state lawmakers should ask themselves who do they want to protect more—dangerous criminals or law-abiding citizens? If it’s the latter, they should take action immediately and pass laws requiring 287(g). HB 452 in North Carolina shows them the way.