About two dozen protesters stood across the street from the Executive Mansion Saturday using signs, chants and a mariachi band to urge Gov. Roy Cooper to veto a bill that would force local jails to cooperate with immigration officials.
“This is to show Gov. [Roy] Cooper that we are here,” said Stefania Arteaga, statewide immigrants’ rights organizer for the N.C. ACLU, as the six-piece band played in the background. “And we want you to hear this.”
The protesters oppose House Bill 370, which would require county jail officials to comply with federal immigration detainers — a request to hold someone in jail even through they are eligible for release.
The bill has been approved by the state House of Representatives and is being considered by the Senate.
Saturday’s protesters want Cooper to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. The rally was organized by Companeros Inmigrantes De Las Montanas, Siembra NC and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
Last year, sheriff candidates in some of the state’s largest counties successfully pushed out incumbents on platforms that included promising to end cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Sheriffs were elected in Wake and Mecklenburg counties on campaigns that included ending participation in 287(g), a partnership with ICE that allows officials to check the legal status of county inmates.
The sheriffs ended those partnerships, but also stopped honoring ICE detainers, along with sheriffs in Durham, Buncombe and Forsyth counties, The News & Observer reported.
ICE officials have said if they aren’t able to detain inmates in county jail, the agency has “no choice” but to increase enforcement efforts in the community, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Arteaga said she believes the bill is in retaliation for the sheriffs’ decisions to end their partnerships with ICE.
“We are here today … demanding that the governor use his power to veto this bill,” she said. “And to veto any other copycat bill.”
The group also delivered about 200 letters to the governor’s mansion from people across the state outlining how the bill would affect them.
Bruno Hunojosa, 23, of Charlotte said if the bill becomes law, it would increase racial profiling across the state, undermine law enforcement’s relationship with the community and separate more families.
Martha Hernandez, 45, of Raleigh said she is worried about the decisions politicians are making.
“They are not thinking about the families or the people who elected them,” Hernandez said through an interpreter. “They are only thinking about their economic and political interests.”