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A bill in North Carolina requiring sheriffs to cooperate more closely with immigration agents has moved closer to becoming law with a Senate vote.

Protestors outside the old state Capitol (Via Travis Harrison)

The North Carolina Senate passed a bill on Thursday that mandates sheriffs to temporarily detain jail inmates suspected by federal immigration agents of being in the country illegally.

Unlike previous versions vetoed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper in recent years, this bill has a stronger chance of becoming law due to increased Republican representation. The Senate voted 28-16 along party lines for the measure, which now returns to the House. Speaker Tim Moore indicated support for the bill and suggested a vote on Senate revisions could happen as early as next week.

If the House approves the bill, it will reach Governor Cooper’s desk for potential veto. However, Republican majorities in both chambers could override his veto if they remain unified.

Protestors holds the boards of SOMOS (Harry Parker/Shutterstock)

The bill, sponsored by key House leaders, focuses on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. These are requests for local law enforcement to inform federal agents about inmates believed to be in the country unlawfully and to keep them in custody.

Republicans argue the bill is necessary because some sheriffs, particularly in Democratic urban counties, have not cooperated with immigration agents. According to Senator Buck Newton from Wilson County, while most sheriffs comply, a few do not, leading to what he described as a long-standing problem.

Under the proposed changes, sheriffs and jailers must detain inmates accused of serious crimes for up to 48 hours if an ICE detainer is issued. The bill also requires judicial officials to authorize law enforcement to hold the inmate in question.

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