North Carolina operates under a law that prohibits any county or municipality from restricting local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
And while that technically prohibits sanctuary cities in the state, most law enforcements choose what to prioritize in their respective towns.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said immigration status hasn’t been and won’t be a priority for CHPD.
“It’s still not something that’s important to us,” he said. “That’s not consistent with the role of local law enforcement in our view.”
But multiple proposals have been filed with varying penalties against local governments and universities that don’t comply with federal immigration law.
These proposals on top of the executive order limiting federal money availability to those cities, have left some residents frightened.
Blue said this fear has caused rumors to circulate that CHPD would check immigration status at traffic checkpoints, but it isn’t true.
“Those rumors actually came out of some speed enforcement we were doing, probably,” he said. “But people are on pins and needles right now, and they don’t know exactly what to expect and they don’t know what’s going to be asked of the local authorities, so I think that casts everything we do in a new light of suspicion.”
Chief Blue spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
He said officers in the department do everything they can to be open to the community, including announcing traffic checkpoints on social media. He said this has led to more followers, and therefore more people to help receive and spread information.
“I’m going to look on the bright side and say our ability to reach a lot of people is probably enhanced by that rumor going around and folks learning that we’re going to try and communicate,” he said. “And they’re going to us for that information.”
Blue said fear is also circulating because of one section of one of the proposals against “sanctuary cities” in North Carolina that will also ban community or faith ID’s. These are often issued to immigrants by non-profits and faith groups in place of a government ID.
“My hope is that local law enforcement across the state will make clear as we did last session when the same kind of bill came up—make clear that it’s important to us that that remain an option for us,” he said.
He said regardless of the proposals, he hopes anyone in the community will still call 911 in an emergency.
“Your 911 call is not going to jeopardize your family,” he said. “It’s not going to jeopardize your neighbors—at least not in terms of their immigration status. That’s not something we’re concerned about and don’t let your fear deter you from calling when you need our help.”
Durham and Carrboro Police have also said immigration status is not a major concern for the departments. Durham Police said the department will be suspending checkpoints outside of campaigns such as Booze it and Lose it and Click it or Ticket.