Jan 28 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Recently, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Dan Bishop (R-NC) reintroduced the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act, legislation that will help stop sanctuary cities. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Tom Cotton (R-AR).
The legislation would 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.
The reintroduction comes in conjunction with the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act, legislation introduced by Senator Tillis and Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) that holds sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for failing to comply with lawful detainer and release notification requests made by federal authorities.
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 noncompliant with ICE.
  • Jurisdictions that are deemed noncompliant 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. 

“Reckless sanctuary policies have allowed dangerous criminals back into communities in North Carolina, and that number will continue to increase as President Biden pushes for sanctuary city legislation that puts politics ahead of the safety and security of the American people,” said Senator Tillis. “The Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act is a critical step in keeping rogue sheriffs in check so that North Carolinians are safe from violent criminals. This legislation clarifies sheriffs’ authority, incentivizes cooperation, and eliminates any excuse sheriffs use to justify why they ignore detainer requests.”  

“In North Carolina, we’ve seen firsthand how reckless sheriffs can endanger whole counties by flouting federal law enforcement. Sanctuary policies that allow dangerous criminals back on the street make our communities less safe,” said Rep. Bishop. “Our bill removes excuses used to ignore the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requests to detain criminals and incentivizes cooperation with federal law enforcement. Localities should not prioritize liberal agendas over law and order and I’m pleased my colleagues in the Senate support this critical legislation,” concluded Bishop.


A recent trend across the United States, which will worsen under the Biden administration, 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 implemented sanctuary policies by refusing to honor detainer requests made by ICE. WBTV reported on data showing that nearly 500 illegal immigrants were released from NC jails despite a detainer request made by federal law enforcement. Charges included sex offenses, kidnapping, arson, and homicide.