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Mecklenburg County sheriff rails against passage of bill that could compel departments to cooperate with ICE

Senate Bill 101 was approved by both chambers in the General Assembly, but is likely to face veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — As the North Carolina General Assembly wrapped up its work session for the year Friday, a bill that was ratified in the state Senate has already come under fire by the leader of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office.

Senate Bill 101, which was passed in both chambers, would compel county sheriffs to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by providing agents with the immigration status of inmates and allowing ICE to pick them up. Gov. Roy Cooper is likely to veto it, as he did a similar measure in 2019.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden responded to the passage of S.B. 101 with a news release largely railing against it. Among the reasons that McFadden included in the release: the cost burden placed on county law enforcement agencies to house ICE detainees along with current staffing issues. McFadden also said sheriffs in North Carolina were not being considered by state leaders.

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McFadden's full statement follows:

 As the elected Sheriff of Mecklenburg County, I have the sole official responsible in Mecklenburg County for the care and custody of those remanded to detention and I feel compelled to address the passage of Senate Bill 101 by the North Carolina House. I read in one media report that legislators suggested it would only cost from $10 to $20 to a high of $40 per day for a Sheriff to house ICE detainees. Let's be clear, I can't imagine there is one detention facility in North Carolina that can house a resident for $40/day. In Mecklenburg County, the cost/day is based on Federal Circular A-87 and has been audited twice by the United States Marshals' Service (USMS). We currently receive $160/day from the United States Marshal Service (USMS) and prior to the elimination of the 287(g) program we received the same federal rate from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so it only serves to reason, as Sheriff, I would not be willing to receive a lower rate for housing especially a rate based on the speculative cost suggested by a legislator(s).

The cost per day was a contributing factor to my decision in April 2019 to no longer participate in the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program which only reimbursed Sheriffs $40/day for housing sentenced residents. From a historical perspective, the "$40/day" has been in place for State housing since 1997. Surely, we can agree, no one is paying the same price they did in 1997 for anything. Even the average cost per day for housing a state inmate was $95.92/day in FY 2021 ((ncdps.gov)). The FY 2021 actual cost per day for the Mecklenburg County Detention Center Central was $191.41/day for direct and indirect cost. I suspect it will be higher in FY 2022 based on the current economic challenges with staffing and cost of non-labor expenses suchas food, utilities, medical, etc. as well as the reduced population required by the State of North Carolina.

Sheriffs in North Carolina continue to be discounted and forced to meet unfunded mandates at the hands of the State. From the prolonged housing of sentenced state residents (referred to as backlog) without compensation o the gun permit laws that are antiquated and labor-intensive, I am concerned this is just another unfunded mandate that will burden our already taxed resources.

North Carolina General Statue § 162-62 mandates all Sheriffs in North Carolina to make a query and notify ICE regarding undocumented persons, therefore, all Sheriffs, by law, are already required to cooperate with ICE with or without 287(g) in place. It is important to understand when a Sheriff is ordered by a judicial official to release someone, he/she cannot continue to hold a person in custody. The signature of a federal agent does not supersede a judicial order. The law has not changed. What has changed however, is the singling out of some sheriffs who just so happen to be black sheriffs. In 2019 we were classified as “urban sheriffs”, “sanctuary sheriffs”, “super-minority-majority sheriff’s” and in 2021, “metro sheriffs”. 

While I am a proud member of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association, the National Sheriff’s Association, and the Major County Sheriffs of America; these associations do not speak for me or the citizens of Mecklenburg County who have re-elected me for a second term. I respect every Sheriff’s position as well as the position of other duly elected officials as I hope they respect mine.

Budget bill also finalized in the General Assembly

Aside from the immigration bill, the General Assembly was also able to finish the work session by finalizing proposed state budget adjustments. They were also able to handle other major items, but still left other policy matters either unresolved or unthwarted.

The Republican-penned spending measure, which alters the second year of a two-year budget plan enacted last November, received strong bipartisan support again, like it did while securing initial House and Senate approval on Thursday.

The bill would spend $27.9 billion for the new year that began Friday but also sets aside several billion additional dollars in reserves and construction projects.

Credit: AP
House Speaker Tim Moore looks over the calendar for the afternoon session of the North Carolina House on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Raleigh, N.C. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)

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It also contains additional pay increases for teachers and state employees, although they're not as large as those sought by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is reviewing the measure, a spokesperson said. He'll have 10 days to decide whether to sign the bill into law, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

With over 30 legislative Democrats voting for the measure, Cooper appears hard-pressed to have any veto he issues stick should GOP leaders attempt an override later this month. The House voted 82-25 and the Senate 36-8 for the measure with little debate Friday, approving it after Thursday's more robust discussion.

“It looked like a whole lot of folks in the General Assembly are on board with it, and hopefully that will resonate with him,” Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, said after his chamber completed business.

The hodge-podge of other legislation that got final General Assembly approval on Friday included the annual “regulatory reform” measure and a restructuring of oversight of the state’s two schools for the deaf and one for the blind. Another approved bill makes clear that insurance companies or hospitals can’t attempt to charge victims of sexual assault for forensic medical examinations, leaving it to a special state fund for payment.

What didn't make it?

The General Assembly session that began May 18 may be best remembered for consequential policy measures that failed to reach the finish line.

Atop the list is Medicaid expansion, which had been opposed for years by Republicans but sought by Cooper since taking office in 2017.

Berger reversed course, embracing a measure in May that accepted expansion for several hundred thousand low-income adults. It was attached to provisions that among others would ease “certificate of need” laws and allow advanced-practice nurses to work without a physician’s supervision.

The Senate approved the bill overwhelmingly, but House Republicans wouldn't consider it and groups representing physicians and hospitals oppose key non-Medicaid provisions.

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Instead, Speaker Tim Moore championed a proposal that would direct Cooper's health department to create a Medicaid expansion plan by mid-December, after which there would be a legislative vote to accept all or part of the plan. The House approved the bill this week by a wide margin, but negotiations with the Senate fizzled in the final days.

Berger said he anticipated expansion talks would continue. And Moore said he believed his legislation sent a signal to Cooper to have a preliminary Medicaid plan — with certain fiscal and medical benchmarks — ready to offer the General Assembly by December in case negotiations with the Senate succeed.

“It’s very clear where (the House) is on the issue,” Moore ,a Cleveland County Republican, told reporters. “I believe the overwhelming majority of this House would support and support that with those parameters and those guidelines.”

Two other pieces of Senate legislation that passed the chamber — one that would authorize and regulate sports betting and another to legalize marijuana for medical use — didn't succeed in the House this session. Support to consider medical marijuana this year was tepid among House Republicans, and the sports betting legislation got tripped up when the House defeated a measure by one vote.

Berger, who voted for both measures, said he took a “glass half-full” view to the Senate measures that fell short, saying it's not uncommon for policy proposals by one chamber to fall short in the other.

When will lawmakers reconvene?

Legislators won't be too far removed from Raleigh for the remainder of the year. The adjournment resolution approved by both chambers Friday directs them to return July 26, during which they could vote on Cooper's vetoes.

Then the legislature would formally reconvene once a month through December. Republicans say that would give them the opportunity to address unforeseen circumstances, or to respond to the results of any election- or redistricting-related legislation. While the topics acted upon could be widened, it's also possible no action will be taken. Regardless, another edition of the 170-member General Assembly will be seated in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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