Under the Dome

NC Senate votes to take away school, road funding from immigration ‘sanctuary cities’

Sen. Norman Sanderson speaks on a measure concerning "sanctuary cities" for illegal migrants in the Senate chambers at the N.C General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2015.
Sen. Norman Sanderson speaks on a measure concerning "sanctuary cities" for illegal migrants in the Senate chambers at the N.C General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

The N.C. Senate voted 32-17 Monday to to cut off school and road construction money to local governments with immigration “sanctuary city” policies.

A law passed last year banned local governments from preventing law enforcement officers from asking about a suspect’s immigration status or sharing immigration information with federal authorities. That law did not specify any penalties.

Sen. Norman Sanderson, a Pamlico County Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said he’s concerned about law enforcement agencies that are accepting IDs issued by nonprofits to immigrants here illegally.

“In order for this penalty to take effect, a city or a county has to deliberately make a conscious decision to break the law of North Carolina,” Sanderson said. “That should create a real concern for everybody in this Senate.”

A group called FaithAction says it has issued thousands of IDs with support from the Greensboro Police Department. FaithAction’s website says it “can be used by law enforcement as a helpful tool for identification, and may be accepted by city agencies, schools, health centers, and businesses, depending on the policy of each institution.”

“It is not a government issued ID and is not a license to drive,” said Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Greensboro Democrat who defended the program. “The ID provides a greater sense of dignity and trust.”

Robinson said the bill shows “disdain for those who have not had the ability to change their immigration status due to a broken federal system.”

Sen. Buck Newton, a Wilson Republican who is running for attorney general, said he’s opposed to the ID program.

“When I have new neighbors, we bring them a pie, we don’t give them a fake ID,” he said. “This is an effort to stop fake IDs. This is a matter about public safety.”

Sanderson’s bill would put the state attorney general’s office in charge of investigating sanctuary city violations. The office would develop an anonymous tip form and review possible violations within 45 days.

If a city or county is found in violation of immigration laws, it would lose a full year of state funding for school construction projects and local street projects. If it’s still in violation after 60 days, it would lose a second year of funding.

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Raleigh Democrat, said he’s concerned the bill would let the attorney general make decisions about school and road funding.

“This bill gives unprecedented power and authority to the attorney general’s office,” he said. “This bill would turn the attorney general into both an immigration czar and a state budget czar over municipalities.”

The Senate will take a final vote on the bill Tuesday before it heads to the House.