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Chief: Sanctuary city ban could hurt Durham policing

Posted November 5, 2015

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— Police Chief Jose Lopez said Thursday that a new state ban on so-called "sanctuary city" policies could detract from Durham's efforts to work with immigrant residents to deter crime.

Gov. Pat McCrory last week signed into law legislation that prohibits any North Carolina county or municipality from restricting local law enforcement's ability to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

The Protect North Carolina Workers Act also bars government agencies from using consular or embassy documents to verify someone's identity or residence, as well as requiring state and local government agencies to use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of job applicants and contractors.

Durham is one of several North Carolina municipalities – Chapel Hill and Carrboro are among the others – that have in the past instructed local law enforcement and other officials not to ask the immigration status of people with whom they come into contact or to ignore deportation orders in some cases.

Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, president and chief executive of El Centro Hispano in Durham, which supports the Latino community, said the center's clients have expressed anxiety over the law.

"It's really hurting the community," Rocha-Goldberg said. "They feel, if they can't identify themselves and if the police can start asking and are empowered to ask for immigration status and they don't have documents, they could be deported."

Lopez said he doesn't understand the arguments of supporters of the law who say it will help police do their job. Rather, he said, the law gives people in the U.S. illegally one more reason to distrust or even fear police, even when they have been victimized by crime.

"They are going to avoid the police, and the sad part is they are going to avoid the police as victims, as individuals who have information of criminal activity and, sadly enough, as individuals participating in police-related activities," he said.

Rocha-Goldberg agrees, predicting that the anxiety among undocumented residents will drive a wedge between the Latino community and police statewide.

"They are not calling police and not cooperating to catch criminals," she said.

"As they live in that fear, they are going to teach their children that fear, and their children are going to grow up alienated from the police," Lopez said.

The Durham Police Department will comply fully with the law, he said, adding that he doesn't think it will change much of how his force operates because it allows law enforcement the discretion of accepting consular IDs.

The Mexican consulate in Raleigh launched a campaign Thursday to educate people about the law, which officials said has prompted much confusion and misinformation.

Consul General Javier Diaz de Leon said he worries that people might take advantage of immigrants because of the confusion over consular ID cards and wants immigrants to be wary of paying anyone anything because of the new law.

"It's still valid in many other ways, especially in private transactions in North Carolina," Diaz de Leon said of the consular IDs. "We have even heard some people approach us, asking us if the consulate is still open. There are some people thinking that (the state law) means that the Mexican consulate is no longer in operation, which is totally absurd."

The North Carolina Justice Center last week began operating a bilingual hotline – 919-526-0676 – to answer questions about the law and hear from people how it's being enforced.


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  • Ncsu Ninetytwo Nov 14, 2015
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    ILLEGAL: If you go back to your home country (your legal obligation)...... then you will never need to worry about reporting a crime in Durham, and fear being deported by ICE (!!? HA!...Is ICE even deporting illegals anymore?)

  • Nicolle Leney Nov 6, 2015
    user avatar

    What he is worried about is the illegal immigrant who is attacked or raped, etc. They are not going to report the crime for fear of being deported. It could even be a legal child who is worried about bringing attention to illegal parents or relatives. Yes, yes, I know the people are here illegally. But be honest, a violent crime is far worse. And the violent criminal---who may have been caught if the attack had been reported---could then go on to attack more people. This is a valid concern, and situations like this are the reality of what cops have to deal with.

  • Sonja Yagel Nov 6, 2015
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    Dear Chief Lopez, no city including Durham should be above the law. When you have criminals protecting criminals its time for the police to investigate who they are. Durham has become a dangerous place since they harbor illegal criminals. Thank you Governor McCrory for signing this law into effect.

  • Jack Harris Nov 6, 2015
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    Looks to the Chief has an ego problem, with wearing three stars, just how many people does he command??

  • Dan Wilder Nov 6, 2015
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    "They are not calling police and not cooperating to catch criminals," she said.

    That's because they are criminals themselves. However if the illegals were deported there would be less crime in the Latino community. The legal immigrants in the Latino community would have no reason to avoid contact with the police.

  • Sean Creasy Nov 6, 2015
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    Oh and P.S. Quit calling them immigrants... They aren't immigrants!! They DIDN'T enter our country legally!! They are ILLEGAL ALIENS!!

  • Sean Creasy Nov 6, 2015
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    By all means we should protect these "innocent" criminals even though they have pretty much thumbed their noses at our laws and milked our welfare system to the breaking point.. I think I'm going to go jump the river and live in Mexico.. Oh wait a minute.. They throw illegal aliens in jail there!! Maybe Canada then? Nope.. They do the same there too!! Seems like the US is the only North American country that doesn't enforce it's own laws to protect the well being and economy of it's citizens... Pathetic....

  • Ncsu Ninetytwo Nov 5, 2015
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    Why would an illegal immigrant have anxiety about deportation?...........They are not being deported. They know they are not being deported. Their community knows they are not being deported. When was the last time an illegal was deported from Apex or Cary or Pittsboro.......They don't get deported!...........The whole "fear" argument is a hoax............I know illegals. They aren't scared about being deported........Where are the "buses lining up" to deport the illegal immigrants.

  • Angel Nardo-Myers Nov 5, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Amen...they should have anixety over law enforcement since they are breaking our laws! This is ridiculous that people are worried about the anixety of criminals. Yes criminals, they may be lovely people but they decided to break our immigration laws which show no respect for our country.

  • Kim Plucker Nov 5, 2015
    user avatar

    Say what? Oh that is right, Durham has such low crime rate now and all...