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.
Therefore, there are no technical sanctuary cities in the state.
However, that hasn’t stopped different local law enforcement from choosing what to prioritize in their respective towns. But now multiple proposals have been filed with varying penalties against sanctuary cities.
“I think all of the communities in Orange County and Durham and other places that have adopted resolutions in support of the immigrant communities and adopted resolutions about not turning our local police department into agents of the INS—I think those are the communities that are being targeted by this kind of legislation,” said County Commissioner Mark Dorosin.
Dorosin is also the managing attorney for the UNC Center for Civil Rights. He said it’s always been important that Orange County be inclusive of everyone.
“If you live in a community where folks are afraid to call the police, that’s also a community that’s going to be vulnerable to being victimized for crime. Or potentially most marginalized when there’s an emergency like the OWASA emergency,” which left approximately 80,000 residents in southern Orange County without water earlier this year.
The original House Bill would withhold tax revenues from things like beer and wine sales, telecommunications and natural gas from governments that violate the 2015 ban on sanctuary cities.
The new Senate Bill does all that but would also remove city street funding and sales taxes on video programming. It would also ban community ID’s often issued to immigrants by non-profits and faith groups.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said this legislation stems from an age-old fear of anything, or anyone who’s different.
“When you live in a city or metropolitan area, you’ve seen all this diversity, you’re not as frightened of it,” she said. “I think there’s just this perception that people that are different from us bring threats. And that’s just not true. We’ve found it not to be true.”
She also said it’s important for Chapel Hill and the rest of Orange County to continue policing with the prioritization that it has in the past.
“We can continue enforcing safety the way we feel safety should be enforced,” she said. “That doesn’t mean ICE can’t come here. That’s the scary part, that ICE could come here. But we’re not going to invite them in, and say, ‘Come here and take a look.’ So we’ll see what happens.”
Dorosin said it’s unclear how either bill would affect the towns and cities in and around Orange County.
“Exactly how it will fit together, I don’t know,” he said. “But I certainly feel our community in the crosshairs.”
The North Carolina League of Municipalities has said its offices are not aware of any town or city that has violated the 2015 sanctuary city ban.