RALEIGH – A bill barring North Carolina municipalities and counties from acting as “sanctuary cities” under a bill passed Tuesday night by the General Assembly in a sometimes emotional debate. Sanctuary cities are what supporters and opponents call jurisdictions that affirmatively refuse to enforce federal laws relating to immigration.
House Bill 318 passed 70-43 with the understanding that one section that concerned law enforcement groups be removed from the bill via a technical corrections bill to pass later Tuesday evening. As a conference report, the bill could not be amended on the floor of either chamber.
Some members defended the idea of sanctuary cities, with Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Hillsborough) reading from the poem The New Colossus, the poem that is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, and Rep. Hanes (D-Winston-Salem) reading from Henry David Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience. But Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender) said that the bill would not change anything for immigrants in the country legally.
“The immigrant that is here, that is documented, that actually is here legally, is totally protected under this law,” Millis said. “This is not unwelcoming to immigrants, but those who truly break the law.”
The idea of sanctuary cities became national news following the shooting of a California woman. The man accused of the crime is in the United States illegally, had been deported numerous times and could have been deported again shortly before the murder, but San Francisco’s sanctuary laws prevented authorities from contacting U.S. immigration officials.
About 300 U.S. jurisdictions have enacted some form of sanctuary for those in the country illegally, including a handful of places in North Carolina. There is no formal definition of a sanctuary city, but resolutions and ordinances instructing law enforcement officials to ignore deportation orders or requiring them not to ask about immigration status are examples of what some sanctuary cities have done. Chapel Hill and Carrboro have passed ordinances similar to those, and bill supporters say that Charlotte and Durham also have passed ordinances favorable to immigrants in the country illegally.
Under House Bill 318, localities could not stop local law enforcement from asking about immigration status and or from sharing immigration information with federal immigration officials. The bill would also require state and local government agencies to abide by state and federal E-Verify laws that ensure that employees are in the country legally, restrict the use of matricula consular cards issued by foreign governments for public purposes, and direct the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to stop issuing waivers exempting food stamp recipients from federal work requirements.