State Politics

NC Senate bill has tougher penalties on immigration sanctuary cities – and universities – than House proposal

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.

While the N.C. House is already considering a bill to penalize immigration “sanctuary cities,” a Republican senator filed his own proposal Tuesday that includes tougher penalties than the House version.

Sen. Norman Sanderson, a Pamlico County Republican, wants to crack down on both local governments and public universities that don’t comply with federal immigration laws. His bill would strip funding from public universities “that limit or restrict the enforcement of immigration laws and communication with federal law enforcement agencies,” according to a news release.

Local governments that violate the state’s 2015 ban on sanctuary-city policies would lose a variety of revenue sources distributed by the state: City street funding as well as revenue from beer and wine taxes, telecommunication taxes, sales taxes on video programming, taxes on natural gases and scrap tire disposal taxes.

“While we all welcome immigrants who come to our state legally, local politicians, law enforcement and public university officials are not above following immigration laws, and hopefully these changes will provide the incentive needed to make them do the right thing,” Sanderson said in a news release issued by Senate leader Phil Berger’s office – a sign the proposal could have support from Republican leaders.

A House committee last week debated a similar bill, but that Republican-led proposal doesn’t target universities, and it would only withhold tax revenues from beer and wine sales, telecommunications and natural gas from local governments that have sanctuary city policies.

Sanderson’s bill also includes a ban on “community IDs” issued by nonprofit groups to immigrants here illegally. The Senate’s news release says those IDs can “mislead law enforcement” about a person’s immigration status. But that provision isn’t part of the House bill; some law-enforcement agencies say the IDs can be helpful in identifying people during investigations. Instead, the House bill would impose stiffer penalties for the use of fake IDs.

It’s unclear which local governments might be affected by the penalties for sanctuary cities. The N.C. League of Municipalities has said it’s not aware of any towns or cities that are violating the 2015 ban on such policies.

But the news release from Berger’s office says “several law enforcement officials have contacted legislators to blow the whistle that some local governments are not complying with the law” and that “officials in the cities of Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Durham have made public statements casting doubt on their willingness to abide by the law.”

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter