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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper Stands Up to Cynical Nativist Politics and Policy

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Southern Dem vetoes state GOP anti-immigrant bill, shows Democrats how to lean in with courage, conviction and confidence

Washington, DC – Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) yesterday vetoed legislation that would have forced North Carolina law enforcement to cooperate with ICE. The proposed legislation was passed by the GOP legislature and is similar to 2019 state legislation that Gov. Cooper vetoed ahead of his successful re-election. At a time when some Democrats are running away from immigration, Governor Cooper’s veto is a model of how Democrats should stand for their values by leaning in on smart policy. 

Gov. Cooper had this to say in a statement accompanying the veto:

“This law is only about scoring political points and using fear to divide North Carolinians. As the state’s former top law enforcement officer, I know that current law already allows the state to incarcerate and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status. This bill is unconstitutional and weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating that Sheriffs do the job of federal officers, using resources that could hurt their ability to protect their counties.”

In response to the veto, Sheriff Garry McFadden of Mecklenburg County, the largest in North Carolina, stated

“Once again, I applaud Governor Cooper on the veto of Senate Bill 101. Like its predecessor, House Bill 370; SB101 is unconstitutional and only encourages distrust. It would remove the authority of Sheriffs in North Carolina to make discretionary decisions that all Sheriffs are elected to make on behalf of their constituents … It remains my belief that Mecklenburg County is a safer community when all members of our community are able to assist law enforcement with investigations and report criminal activity without fear of repercussions so severe as deportation … As a law enforcement agency, we will continue to enforce and uphold the law.”

The following is a statement from Mario Carrillo, Campaigns Director for America’s Voice:

“Governor Cooper offers Democrats nationwide a model for how to respond to the cynical politics of GOP nativism: decide policy based on values of fairness and effectiveness; persuasively claim rather than cede the public safety frame; and dismiss the GOP stunt as divisive. 

Too often these days, elected Democrats in tough states and districts retreat from contested and controversial immigration debates. Or, they bow to the framing of GOP hardliners and the media ecosystem that supports them. Governor Cooper’s example stands in stark contrast. 

Here we have a southern state and a Democratic governor facing a GOP attempt to divide Democrats, compel bad policy, and demonize immigrants as threats. In response, Governor Cooper stands tall, leans in with courage and conviction, and calls out the GOP’s game. He didn’t and he doesn’t take the bait. 

We commend Gov. Cooper and call on Democrats across the country to learn from you and follow your lead. 

Let us add a huge shout out to the many advocates and in-state voices, including law-enforcement, whose advocacy, messaging, organizing and energy helped define this harmful bill and encourage the Governor’s veto. Together, you show that North Carolina stands by policies that build community trust, help law enforcement focus on public safety priorities, and respect all residents of the state, regardless of background or birthplace.”