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, local law enforcement officials choose what to prioritize in their respective towns.
But Senate Bill 145 is moving through the General Assembly, that aims to keep North Carolina operating under this law.
The bill is similar to one that was filed last month, that aimed to remove city street funding and sales taxes on video programming from counties that don’t comply. It also aimed to ban community or faith ID’s often issued to immigrants by non-profits and faith groups.
This new bill will do that, but also specifies that schools in the North Carolina system will have to disclose immigration status of students on request. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina has suggested it could force schools to choose between complying with state law or with the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said after a January Board of Trustees meeting the school can’t operate as a sanctuary school because of existing state law, but officials can offer legal advice and support to students who need it.
“We’ve already come out and said, ‘Of course we can’t. It’s against the law in the state of North Carolina,'” she said. “And so, we’re a part of that state infrastructure, but what I tend to focus on is what can we do for students? How can we continue to help students if they have concerns in the way we always have? And I think that’s really been the productive way to go about that.”
Dwight Stone is the chair of the UNC Board of Trustees. He said the UNC system’s job is to support all students, but also operate under federal and state law.
“Our job is to educate and instruct our students in whatever advice that we can give them,” he said. “But it is against the law and we will go with our state law, certainly.”
The bill also specifies that if an institution is in violation of the state law, the UNC system president will need to conduct an investigation, and notify the Board of Governors of the findings. The Board of Governors and the president will then revoke certain responsibilities from that institution’s chancellor.
UNC System President Margaret Spellings has previously advocated for students enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and has noted in an editorial for the Washington Post that DACA students often pay out-of-state tuition at universities. Spellings also comes from Texas – a state that grants in-state tuition to undocumented students.
Senate Bill 145 passed in the Judiciary committee in March, and will be heard next in the Finance committee.