Oct 25 2019

Senators Thom Tillis (NC), Chuck Grassley (IA)

Representatives Dan Bishop (NC-9), Ted Budd (NC-13), Richard Hudson (NC-8)

Today in Charlotte, Senators Thom Tillis and Chuck Grassley and Representatives Dan Bishop and Ted Budd announced that they will be formally introducing the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act next weekThe bill will clarify the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) detainer authority, clearly establish the authority of states and localities to maintain custody in cases in which a detainer has been issued, and incentivize cooperation between law enforcement agencies and DHS through the reimbursement of certain detention, technology, and litigation-related costs.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Gives explicit authority to the arresting Federal, State, tribal, or local law enforcement agency to maintain custody of an illegal immigrant for a period not to exceed 48 hours to permit assumption of custody by the DHS, upon the issuance of a detainer.
  • Allows the federal government to enter into agreements with the arresting law enforcement agency to indemnify these agencies against wrongful detention claims by third parties which resulted from a detainer issued without reason to believe the individual is a removable illegal immigrant. Indemnification will not extend to claims relating to negligence or willful misconduct.
  • Makes jurisdictions ineligible for reimbursement of detention costs if they are certified by the DHS Secretary as being incompliant with ICE.
  • Jurisdictions that are deemed incompliant by the DHS Secretary will not receive priority when being considered for funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and when benefitting from the 1033 and 1122 programs.


A recent trend across the United States has been the unwillingness of localities to assist the federal government with its immigration enforcement responsibilities. Detainers are a valuable and effective law enforcement tool, however, several states and localities, including in North Carolina, have passed legislation or developed policies significantly limiting cooperation with detainers. This unwillingness to communicate and comply with lawful detainer requests puts public safety at risk and endangers entire communities. Much of this lack of cooperation has been fueled, in part, by recent federal court decisions calling into question the authority of state and local law enforcement agencies to maintain custody of an illegal immigrant who is the subject of an immigration detainer beyond the time he or she would otherwise have been released. Additionally, state and local law enforcement agencies have cited fiscal concerns in declining to cooperate with immigration detainers.

In North Carolina, sheriffs in a handful of counties have recently implemented sanctuary policies by refusing to honor detainer requests made by ICE. WBTV recently reported on data showing that nearly 500 illegal immigrants were released from N.C. jails despite a detainer request made by federal law enforcement. Charges included sex offenses, kidnapping, arson, and homicide. 


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