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NC Governor Signs Ban On 'Sanctuary Cities' For Undocumented Immigrants

Jorge Valencia
Gov. Pat McCrory signed the ban on "sanctuary cities" in Greensboro, where the city council last week voted to disapprove of the ban.

Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday signed a law that makes North Carolina less friendly to undocumented immigrants by prohibiting city or county policies that prevent local police from collaborating with federal immigration agents.

McCrory signed the law during a ceremony in Greensboro, a city where the council passed a resolution opposing it. The legislation also directs police and local governments to no longer accept consulate or embassy documents as a form of identification, and it includes a provision unrelated to immigration: it reduces federal food stamps benefits for as many as 100,000 unemployed childless adults.

“I firmly believe that we cannot limit the tools that our law enforcement officials have to be able to find the information that's important and pertinent to protect the general public,” McCrory said, flanked by Guilford County Sheriff B.J. Barnes and Cartaret County Sheriff Asa Buck.

McCrory was expected to approve the ban on what have become known as “sanctuary cities,” even though dozens of pro-immigrant activists held daily protests outside the governor’s mansion in Raleigh urging him to reject the measure. Activists said that invalidating certain forms of identification would make it more difficult for some people to receive medical treatment, have access to municipal services such as water, and obtain birth certificates for children born in the state. Some authorities, including Burlington Police Chief Jeffrey Smythe, said the law would make some immigrants less likely to seek out police officers if they are victims or witnesses to a crime.

‘Sanctuary Cities’

The term “sanctuary city” did not previously exist under North Carolina statutes, but it is a term used nationally to describe cities that are friendly to people who are living in the country without legal permission. The concept of sanctuary cities generated country-wide outrage this summer when a woman was fatally shot in San Francisco by a Mexican nationalwho had been released from jail despite a federal detainer request.

At a meeting of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association in late July, McCrory said he was alarmed by international traffickers using the state’s interstates as thoroughfares to smuggle drugs. In late September, as Republican lawmakers were drafting the bill, he wrote an email to supporters of this political campaign asking to join his opposition to sanctuary cities.

“I don’t believe anyone should give sanctuary in any part of our state and nation to people who break our laws, especially drug traffickers, human traffickers and violent criminals,” McCrory wrote.

Food Stamp Benefits

The law could also reduce eligibility for federal food stamp benefits, which are administered by the state Department of Health and Human Resources, for as many as 100,000 people, according to the North Carolina Justice Center. The measure prohibits the health department from seeking exemptions to a federal rule that allows childless, able-bodied adults to receive food stamps for up to three months unless they work a minimum of 20 hours a week, study or are volunteer. The federal government had allowed exceptions to the rule during the recession.

In a statement, McCrory said the law emphasizes the value of work, but activists said it shows disregard for people who have not been able to find work.

“You’re also taking away food stamps from people who are struggling to find a job,” said Maria Cortez Perez, of High Point, after the signing ceremony. “We have 83 counties in North Carolina that have more unemployed people than they do job openings. It makes no sense.”

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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