While opponents have been fighting to stop a bill in the General Assembly from mandating sheriffs cooperate with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the vast majority of North Carolinians are in support of the legislation.

A new Carolina Journal poll shows 65.8% of likely voters support requiring sheriffs to honor ICE detainer requests. A detainer asks state law enforcement personnel to continue holding a noncitizen who has been arrested for a crime until ICE can arrive to take custody of the undocumented alien.

The strong sentiment comes as House Bill 10 awaits final approval in the North Carolina House. The legislation mandates cooperation with ICE and imposes a penalty for sheriffs who refuse to comply. The enforcement mechanism enables any person, including a federal agency, to file a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General if a sheriff or the jail administrator has failed to comply with the rule.

Just 17% say they oppose the legislation, while an additional 8% have no preference. 

The proposed legislation passed the House last year, but only taken up and approved by the Senate earlier this month. The House now must approve amendments made in the Senate before presenting the bill to the governor. While Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed similar legislation in the last, a supermajority of Republicans in the General Assembly are expected to override such an objection any day now.

North Carolina’s major cities have become ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions where law enforcement leaders choose not to work with ICE. Some sheriffs do not believe they have the authority to hold someone in jail without a judge’s order, despite the detainer request from ICE. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden is one of the few North Carolina sheriffs who doesn’t comply with ICE detainers, but would be forced to do so under the new legislation.

Beyond the majority support for this legislation, data from earlier this year indicates the number one issue among North Carolina voters is also immigration. 

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the foreign-born population has increased by 5.1 million since March 2022, the largest two-year increase in American history. The Center estimates that 58% of the increase in the total foreign-born population since President Biden took office was due to illegal immigration, meaning the illegal immigrant population has increased by an estimated 3.8 million since January 2021.

“The current scale of immigration (legal and illegal) into the United States is without any precedent in the nation’s history,” the report states. “Immigration clearly adds workers to the country but also adds non-workers who need to be supported by the labor of others. This is a reminder that policy-makers need to think about immigration’s broad impact on American society, not merely its usefulness to employers.”

Data shows that, of immigrants who said they arrived in 2022 or later, only 46 percent were actually employed.