The Carrboro Board of Aldermen passed a resolution supporting Immigrant Heritage Month Tuesday but balked at a suggestion by Alderman Sammy Slade to stop police from ticketing Hispanics without drivers’ licenses.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard a request from Peter McClelland to pass a resolution for Immigrant Heritage Month. It said Carrboro has shown strong support for immigrant communities, has recognized the contribution of immigrants and supports efforts in Congress to advance common-sense and comprehensive immigration reform. It calls for June to be celebrated as Immigrant Heritage Month in Carrboro.
The Chapel Hill Town Council heard from McClelland at its Monday meeting and voted to consider passing the resolution at a future meeting.
The aldermen liked the resolution and eventually voted to pass it, but Slade said it was a good opportunity to add language addressing Hispanics being two to three times more likely to get a citation for driving without a license than non-Hispanics.
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His addition said, “Be it resolved for the board’s consideration that the Board of Aldermen request that the manager coordinate with the Carrboro Police Department to stop issuing citations for driving without a license until the North Carolina legislature amends legislation so that immigrants can drive legally.”
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist said she disagreed with the state law that denies driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants but couldn’t support Slade’s idea.
“I don’t want people to drive without a license because that usually means they don’t have insurance,” she said. “What does that do to the other drivers on the road?”
Gist reminded the others there are lots of reasons people don’t have licenses, including people who may have lost their licenses because of driving while impaired.
“Are we going to be asking our police officers to see how a person looks and, based on that determine, if it’s OK for them not to have a license?” Gist asked.
Alderwoman Bethany Chaney said she was concerned it might send a message to young people that they don’t need to get a license.
After some discussion, Slade said he understood the board was uncomfortable with his additions to the resolution, but he said it was an opportunity to stop an injustice based on racism at the state level.
The aldermen also talked about traffic checkpoints and agreed to ask the staff, including the police chief, to bring back information at a future meeting about them and also respond to information that Hispanics receive a disproportionately high number of citations for driving without a license.