Wednesday President Donald Trump signed an executive order meant to pull federal funding from “sanctuary cities,” but here in North Carolina legislation was enacted in 2015 aimed at cities and other municipalities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Trump’s multi-part order among other things says it is the policy of the executive branch to “ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law,” but exactly what funds that would affect is yet unclear.
Here in North Carolina under HB 318, which former Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law during the 2015 legislative session, North Carolina municipal and county governments are forbidden from hampering local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in the dispensation of their duties.
The law also expands E-verify legal status verification for employment in the state and requirements for state labor contracts, and specifies that consulate documents are not an acceptable form of identification in the state to prove residency. However, the section banning sanctuary cities and counties in the state drew the most attention.
The bill was drafted in response to the nationwide uproar in 2015 after the murder of Kathryn Steinle, allegedly by an illegal immigrant who had been deported multiple times. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican national, who was released by San Franciscan authorities earlier that year, was arrested after the 32-year-old Steinle was shot in the back at a San Francisco pier. The bill drew protesters to the Governor’s Mansion, where they called on McCrory to veto the bill.
At the signing of the bill, at the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, McCrory stood in front of law enforcement officers and said, “Each individual arriving here in a legal manner, following our laws, in search of a better life is a blessing to our state and to our country. We want to continue that strength of our great country, but in doing so, we must follow the law and not tie the hands of the men and women behind me. We’re going to enforce the law and help our law enforcement officers protect our citizens.”
An NC Capitol Connection story in 2015 found examples of at least five “Sanctuary Cities” in the state: Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
For example, a 2013 ordinance passed in Asheville outlined policies in reference to dealing with illegal immigrants, or those suspected of being illegal aliens.
Under the policy, “The City of Asheville opposes any efforts to transfer federal immigration responsibility to state and local officials, since these proposals tax our already overburdened police department and damage relationships with immigrant communities.”
The policy went on to describe the city’s desire to “play a leading role in the protection of civil liberties and to consistently promote tolerance and respect for all persons.” The resolution clarifies that the city rejects “profiling of any group” or setting up check points or selecting certain areas of town for investigation based on any kind of profiling.
The policy goes into detail in regards to drivers without licenses, a common issue in debates over illegal immigration. The policy states, “In accordance with Asheville Police Department policy, if officers stop a driver of a motor vehicle who cannot produce a valid operator’s license and a computer check show the driver has no license issuance information, a citation is sufficient enforcement action.”
The resolution goes as far to explicitly state the city does not actively participate in the enforcement of federal immigration law.
On Monday, Asheville Police Department Chief Tammy Hooper said that, as she understands the term, Asheville is not a “sanctuary city” and it fully complies with state and federal immigration law.
When asked if the city made any changes following the 2015 state laws passage, Hooper said in an email; “The City of Asheville is not a ‘Sanctuary City’ as we understand that term. The Asheville Police Department (APD) has always fully complied with all requirements of state and federal law, and will continue to do so in the future. That principle has remained consistent and is reflected daily in the APD’s work. Any person determined to have committed a crime in our jurisdiction is cited or arrested as appropriate, regardless of their immigration status.”