State Sen. Fred Smith wants every North Carolina sheriff to have immigration authority.
At the Republican gubernatorial debate Saturday, the state senator said every sheriff in North Carolina should be authorized under a federal program to investigate illegal immigrants in custody.
Under federal law, immigration enforcement is handled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, while local police respond only to crime.
That can mean that they check the immigration status of inmates at the county jail and help deport illegal immigrants who have been arrested.
In North Carolina, Mecklenburg, Alamance and Gaston counties are participating in the program. Sheriffs in Buncombe and Henderson counties are in a trial period.