In May, I joined five born-and-raised North Carolinians at the General Assembly to speak against House Bill 10, a bill causing fear in our Latino community. We were nervous, but we encouraged each other with the unspoken words, “Por nuestra gente — for our people.”

Fear is nothing new to us. As first-generation students, children of immigrants, and members of mixed-status families, we have seen our parents live in the shadows and inherited their fear of drawing attention. We’ve also inherited their resilience, which drives us to stand against a bill threatening to tear families apart and sow even more distrust between our community and law enforcement.

The main goal of HB 10 is to force every sheriff in North Carolina to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to detain and transfer any person charged with a criminal offense and detained in a facility operated by the sheriff, regardless of the reason for the person’s arrest. This action, while voluntary per federal law, would become mandatory under the bill.

In every legislative session since 2019, legislators have introduced bill proposals like HB 10. Each time, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed them, citing concerns about public safety, community trust, and the overreach of federal immigration enforcement into local law enforcement duties.

While at the General Assembly, I heard legislators’ arguments in favor of HB 10. They believe it would enhance community safety and protect people from “violent criminals.” Those we spoke to told us that immigrants would have nothing to fear and that there was no discrimination against the Latino community.

Unfortunately, we’ve already seen the harm caused by a similar initiative, the 287(g) program, which has operated in 15 N.C. counties since 2006 and gives local law enforcement officers the power to enforce federal immigration law. In 2018, police arrested Gustavo Carnevalini in Charlotte for riding the light rail without a ticket. After two years of legal battles, ICE deported Gustavo to a country he barely knew. At the time of his arrest, he was 18 and had been living in the U.S. since he was 2 years old.

A 2022 ACLU report found that racial profiling has been “endemic” to the 287(g) program for years and that “Sheriff’s deputies look for any excuse to detain somebody they suspect of having a questionable immigration status for the purposes of funneling them into deportation.” The ACLU also found that at least “59% of participating sheriffs have records of anti-immigrant, xenophobic rhetoric, contributing to a continued climate of fear for immigrants and their families.”

As a leader in my community, I encounter this climate of fear daily. I’ve helped community members call police because of language barriers and because they don’t trust law enforcement due to their immigration status.

As a litigation paralegal and community educator with the NC Justice Center, I help migrants whose rights are violated on our farms and in workplaces across the state. This includes handling human trafficking cases, and with each client the first thing I must do is reassure them that filing a complaint or aiding in an investigation will not lead to deportation.

I see firsthand how HB 10 will not only create more fear but hinder our state’s ability to combat crimes like labor violations and sex trafficking. NC Stop Human Trafficking founder Pam Strickland says traffickers use the legal system to intimidate survivors. She says if law enforcement is required to contact ICE instead of making judgment calls based on individual situations, including the possibility that the person they are dealing with is actually a human trafficking victim, this will decrease even further the possibility of victims coming to law enforcement for help.

House Bill 10 does not protect our community, but fosters fear and division. If it passes, it sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to even more discrimination by police against all communities of color. We must not let scoring cheap political points silence our cries for justice. Let’s stop HB 10.