Buncombe board debates ICE detainer bill

Quentin Miller discussing ICE
MAKING THE CASE: Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller shares his position of noncompliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests at the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners' July 16 meeting. Photo by Daniel Walton

Sworn oaths, social justice, the rule of law — the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners dove into weighty philosophical discussions at its July 16 regular meeting. But the theoretical discourse was grounded in a practical reality: the N.C. General Assembly’s HB 370, a pending bill that would require Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller and other sheriffs throughout the state to comply with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests on penalty of removal from office.

The board’s four Democratic members — Chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Commissioners Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides — had signed letters to Gov. Roy Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger urging them to oppose HB 370. Presenting at the meeting, Beach-Ferrara said the bill “was unconstitutional, that it targets immigrant communities here in Buncombe County and across North Carolina, and that it also undermines the authority of duly elected sheriffs to do their jobs and set policies that protect and maintain the public safety of the communities they’re elected to serve.”

Republican Commissioner Robert Pressley, reading from a prepared statement, said his Democratic colleagues “may even have some valid points” in their criticism of the bill. However, he said that his oath as an elected official bound him and his fellow commissioners to uphold the laws of the United States and North Carolina, regardless of their personal opinions.

“As citizens, we don’t get to choose which law we will follow and which law we will break,” Pressley said. “While I appreciate my colleagues’ social justice activism as a way to change things, I don’t believe we should allow that activism to get in the way of promises we made to the citizens who sent us here.”

Whitesides responded that HB 370 hadn’t yet been signed into law and that, as Americans, the commissioners had a right to express their opinions. He added that the commissioners’ fiduciary responsibility to act in the interest of the county should impel them to speak up against proposals they view as unjust.

“Where is our moral compass, folks? We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t give a darn anymore about people,” Whitesides said. He later compared ICE detention of immigrants without due process to the racist laws of the Jim Crow era.

While Republican Commissioner Joe Belcher said he supported the county’s Hispanic community, he objected to board members issuing statements against HB 370 on county letterhead, which bears the names of all seven commissioners. He said the board had long avoided issuing official resolutions on state and federal issues, respecting the “Dillon’s Rule” principle that gives the General Assembly preeminence over local governments.

Newman noted that the board did not have a formal policy against such statements and had previously taken positions on local bills, which impact Buncombe County alone. Because Miller is one of only seven sheriffs in the state to adopt a policy of noncompliance with ICE, he said, “it’s almost kind of a little bit of a gray area.”

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and a reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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13 thoughts on “Buncombe board debates ICE detainer bill

  1. Diana

    The ICE detainer bill is an important issue but this meeting was also smoke and mirrors for a commission that just had a recent former member federally indicted on 11 counts of fraud and racketeering. Whiteside, Beech-Ferrera and the rest didn’t know Frost was stealing from the cookie jar? Impossible. The $600,000 of public funds that went to Frost’s high and mighty horse set friends over in Tryon and Wellington, Florida was in the news more than a year ago but they all gave her a glowing send off at her “retirement” like they always do regardless of the truth of someone’s character. Shame on all of them.

    • Lulz

      LOL when their supporters are more like a cult, it emboldens them to do bad things, Funny how the people around here stand for affordable housing, anti corporatism, environmentalism, and fairness. But have gotten the exact opposite from the people they elected and continue to defend.

      • M. Meadows

        HaHa. Sounds like someone is mad? Maybe you should leave, you know, go somewhere else. HaHa. If you don’t like it here just move away. HaHa.
        People are saying great things about Dominican Republic, try there! HaHa.

          • M. Meadows

            With all the name calling and hyperbole you use, Haha, we both know you aren’t getting invited to the party. Reasonable people are tired of government corruption at all levels from both parties. Does the NC 9th ring a bell. Or the two congressmen re-elected while under federal indictment. HaHa. Let me know when anyone is defending what happened here locally. Please site the text or interview. Haha.

          • Lulz

            LOL why anyone is here to defend people who have taken advantage of them is why it happened. I’m sorry but I don’t.pay property taxes in the 9th. But I do here and for years I’ve seen them go up so scum can live the good.life. And it ain’t over by a long shot. More names are going down lulz.

  2. K Smith

    I think they are too densely oblivious to anything going on around them to feel shame.

    • Lulz

      LOL wrong. That describes the people who vote for them. Frost and the like are actually cunning enough to take advantage of it. You don’t run for office to represent people in Asheville/Buncombe. You run so you can make money, keep your cronies in business, and sap the taxpaying people who live here of all the money you can. All they while faking it. There’s a big rotten stink coming from the local government. But it’s only happening because they have a voting populace of wealthy minions who can afford it. Those that can’t, well they have a paramilitary organization to deal with that will kill them if need be,. Merely to seize their property to sell it to someone else that will pay the high fees to own here.

  3. Lulz

    When you can count on an electorate of buffoons to vote for you even though you do nothing but benefit yourself, is anyone surprised? Democrats are simply and utterly the most ignorant and led around by a leash group of people I’ve ever seen. They vote for candidates not based on sensible reality but labels. It’s literally insanity.

    Newman would do himself a favor and get lost because I have a feeling he’s about to see the inside of a jail cell. Gantt is another piece of work who needs prison stripes.

  4. Keith Thomson

    Anonymous posters making libelous statements against real people is a blood sport on this comment site. Cowards should use their own names.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      libelous? roflmao! and this was originally about our Sheriff who likes to pick which laws to follow…

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