North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis introduced two bills Tuesday geared toward issues caused by illegal immigration, which remains the most important issue for voters in most polls, including Carolina Journal’s most recent poll.

The first bill, titled Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act, would establish a private right of action for any individual, spouse, parent, or child who is a victim of murder, rape, or any felony (as defined by the state), to bring an action against a state or political subdivision of a state if the entity declined to honor a lawful immigration detainer request for an alien by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In addition, this legislation would require a state or political subdivision of a state to waive immunity as a condition of receiving certain federal grants.

The second bill, the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act, would clarify 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.

“For too long, we have watched local jurisdictions in North Carolina and across the country ignore the lawful notification and detainer requests made by ICE agents and instead release dangerous criminals back into their communities and put innocent lives at risk,” Tillis said in a press release. “It is clear President Biden and liberal politicians want to prioritize reckless sanctuary policies over public safety. It is time for Congress to step in and put an end to this madness by holding sanctuary cities accountable and empowering ICE to gain custody of criminal illegal immigrants so they can’t cause more harm and violence.”

Republican Sens. Ted Budd-NC, Tim Scott-SC, Pete Ricketts-NE, Steve Daines-MT, Mike Rounds-SD, Kevin Cramer-ND, Tom Cotton-AR, Bill Cassidy-LA, and Lindsey Graham-SC co-sponsored both bills. Republican Sens Ted Cruz-TX and Roger Marshal-KS are also co-sponsors of the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act.

“This is a matter of public safety and the rule of law,” Budd said. “At a time when the Biden administration refuses to crack down on sanctuary cities, Congress has the responsibility to act. It’s long past time that cities who refuse to enforce our immigration laws face legal consequences.”

The introduction of the bills follows the death of Laken Riley, the University of Georgia nursing student whom Jose Ibarra, an illegal immigrant, brutally murdered while she was running on the university’s campus. Ibarra had been arrested twice before but released before a detainer could be issued. 

Until his State of the Union address last week, Biden had not mentioned Riley’s name or called her family to offer condolences. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gave him a pin with Riley’s name on it before the address and told him to “say her name.” Biden would later mis-name her, calling her “Lincoln Riley” during his speech, the name of a football coach for the University of Southern California.

As Carolina Journal previously reported, the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s June 2023 estimate shows that, currently, 16.8 million illegal immigrants live in the US. The 2023 cost study shows that 488,000 live in the Tar Heel State, along with their 169,000 US-born children.

The costs to support them are staggering. According to FAIR, in 2023, illegal immigration costs North Carolina taxpayers $3.14 billion or $779 per household annually, according to the Census Bureau’s number of households. Also:

  • Illegal immigrant households added 122,218 students to local schools.
  • The average cost to North Carolinians is $4,781 per illegal alien. 
  • Taxpayers are supporting education costs of $1.47 billion, police, legal, and corrections costs of $461.1 million, as well as healthcare, public assistance, and general government services expenses. 

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) annual report, nearly half of the 170,590 illegal immigrants arrested in the US in 2023 had multiple criminal charges and convictions. 

While enforcement arrests nearly doubled, including dozens of known or suspected terrorists, untold numbers of illegal immigrants are deemed “gotaways” who disappear into the nation’s interior.

According to ICE data obtained by Charlotte’s WBTV news, in 2019 nearly 500 illegal immigrants were released from jails across the state despite administrative detainers filed against them by ICE. They were initially charged with sex offenses, kidnapping, arson, and homicide.

ICE often uses a detainer to keep undocumented immigrants in jail because removal from the country is a civil action and not a criminal matter.

ICE has repeatedly asked local jurisdictions to reconsider non-cooperation policies enacted in recent years because “those policies put politics before public safety and release criminals back into communities where they are free to reoffend,” including six of twelve criminal illegal immigrants arrested by ICE in September 2020, who had active ICE detainers.

House Bill 10, Require Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE, which Page supported, would have required sheriffs to contact ICE if they cannot confirm the citizenship status of someone in their custody accused of serious felonies and violent crimes. Although it passed in the House in March 2023, it ended in the Senate Rules Committee.