Chapel Hill News

Town-gown panel in Chapel Hill responds to concerns about Trump immigration orders

The president’s executive orders have directly affected students and researchers’ work, Study Abroad opportunities and plans to volunteer over Spring Break, UNC’s dean of students said at a forum on the Trump admnistration and immigration Wednesday night.

Behind the numbers and names, there are “real people and real stories,” Jonathan Sauls said at the forum sponsored by Carolina Student Legal Services Inc., Justice Initiatives Inc., and the town of Chapel Hill.

Jim Huegerich, Chapel Hill’s senior ombudsman, predicted those assembled would leave with more questions than answers.

“This is a journey, it’s just beginning, it’s complex as heck,” he said. “We need to come together though. Our strength will be in community. Our strength will be in standing together and working this out together. This is an opportunity to show this entire country what this community is made of.”

The goal of the forum was to educate people about immigration policy and assist those who need help.

“Students are asking questions about immigration and what’s going to happen because they’re concerned and they’re scared for themselves, for their friends, for their families and their communities,” said Fran Muse, director of Carolina Student Legal Services.

The immigration ban targets his home country, said UNC doctoral student Milad Minooie, who holds a student visa. He declined to name his nation but sought to clarify the university’s position on providing student information to federal agents. A weekend announcement by Chancellor Carol Folt did not address the issue, he said.

It further concerned him to see people with a right to enter the country being stopped and turned away over the weekend, Minooie said.

“I can’t speak for anyone else, but ... I didn’t feel encouraged,” he said. Other universities “issued statements fully supporting their faculty and their students, saying that under no circumstances would they cooperate with immigration.”

Sauls reassured him that the university has always protected student privacy and would continue to do so. He also pointed out the chancellor’s response to a petition in December that clarified what information the university does and does not share about its students.

Other questions included:

Q. What did President Trump’s executive orders do?

▪ Border enforcement: Build a wall on the nation’s southern border, and hire 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 5,000 new Customs and Border Patrol agents

▪ Interior enforcement: Cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities”; allow immigration officers to expedite deportation proceedings, including for non-citizens who are not charged with a crime but are judged to pose a risk to public safety or national security

▪ Safety and security: Ban immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days, suspend refugee admissions for 120 days, and bar all Syrian refugees indefinitely

Q. Will local “sanctuary cities” lose federal funding?

“We’re not sanctuary locations,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said. “Not allowed to under North Carolina law.”

Conservative groups have listed Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro among so-called “sanctuary cities,” citing approved resolutions that support community diversity and inclusivity. However, none of the cities have policies that violate federal immigration laws, and they are prohibited under state law from creating policies that limit or restrict federal immigration law enforcement. State law also outlaws any rule that prohibits police from gathering immigration information.

Q. Should a non-citizen travel?

Don’t leave the country if you’re not a citizen, said UNC professor Lynn Calder, an attorney and UNC School of Law Immigration Clinic supervisor. While domestic travel is generally OK, she noted, it’s possible that some visas might be revoked in the future.

“Don’t go to south Texas, Arizona, areas of California. Don’t go to the southern border, and the northern border, it’s a little different up there, but you don’t need to go to Buffalo and Detroit and all the places where (Border Patrol agents) may be around,” Calder said.

Q. How does Orange County law enforcement address immigration?

Immigration status is not a priority for local law enforcement agencies, agreed Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton, Chapel Hill Chief Chris Blue, UNC Public Safety Chief Jeff McCracken and Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood.

“Our mission is to serve our community, whatever that community looks like, wherever that community is,” Blackwood said. “As your sheriff, it’s my job to serve the will of our people, and where another county might have a different mission, that’s OK, that’s not our mission here.”

His office also doesn’t get involved, Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall added, but ICE agents occasionally contact him about a person in custody.

Q. What are your rights if ICE agents show up?

Don’t let them in your home without a warrant, Calder said, and carry valid immigration papers at all times. If you are detained, refuse to speak, answer questions or sign anything without consulting with an attorney, she said. If you haven’t been deported before, you likely will have a hearing before a judge.

Calder noted it’s also important to designate in advance someone with the power of attorney to handle your affairs and alternative care for your children.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb