Sanctuary city ban prompts protest at governor's mansion
More than 100 people rallied Thursday afternoon outside the Governor's Mansion, including some who blocked the street in front of the building, in response to Gov. Pat McCrory's decision to sign into law a proposal that prohibits any North Carolina county or municipality from restricting local law enforcement's ability to cooperate with federal immigration officials.Posted — Updated
House Bill 318, dubbed the Protect North Carolina Workers Act, also requires state and local government agencies to use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of job applicants and contractors, bars government agencies or law enforcement from using consular or embassy documents to verify someone's identity or residence and limits food assistance for able-bodied, childless adults who are unemployed.
Six people were arrested after chaining themselves together and sitting in the middle of Blount Street, forcing Raleigh police to divert traffic for more than two hours. A band played music, and crowds on the sidewalk chanted, "Let's stop the hate. We make America great," and "We pay taxes too."
Martha Iliana Santillian-Carril, 32, Angeline Marie Echeverria, 47, Ivanna Christina Gonzalez, 24, Nayely Irais Perez-Huerta, 28, David Salazar-Montalvo, 47, and Maria Carmen Rodriguez, 30, were all arrested and charged with one count of impeding traffic and one count of resisting, delaying or obstructing officers.
The protesters were released late Thursday evening.
“The immigrant community is waking up,” said Rodriguez, an undocumented mother of three who has lived and worked in Raleigh for over 10 years. “We are losing our fear to raise our voices and confront this racism, face to face.”
The Raleigh Police Department's Device Safety Team was called to help cut through the chains so the protesters who blocked the street could be taken into custody.
"There's always places for you to resist," protester Felicia Arriaga said. "This definitely shows that we're not going to sit down and let this happen."
Ricky Diaz, an adviser to the North Carolina Republican Party, called the protest a political stunt.
"My father came to this country because we are a nation of laws," Diaz said. "We need to uphold the rule of law in this country, and any sanctuary cities will unshackle law enforcement to be able to cooperate with federal and other law enforcement agencies. This is common-sense policy. What you see here is more politics."
Latino advocacy groups had lobbied McCrory intensely in recent weeks, urging him to veto the legislation.
Several North Carolina municipalities, including Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro, have so-called "sanctuary city" policies that instruct law enforcement and other officials not to ask the immigration status of people with whom they come into contact or even ignore deportation orders in some cases.
McCrory defended the new state law, saying in an interview with WRAL News that the concept of sanctuary cities conflicts with the oaths law enforcement officers take to uphold the law.
"They are obligated to follow the laws not only of North Carolina but of the United States of America as well," he said. "Once you take an oath, you shouldn't have your hands tied, and you shouldn't have exceptions to that oath of office."
The governor noted that he took a similar stance in vetoing legislation that allowed state magistrates and staffers in county register of deeds offices to opt out of performing same-sex weddings or issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they had religious objections to gay marriage. Lawmakers later overrode his veto.
"There are several laws I have to follow that I think are bad laws – stupid laws at times," he said. "If had the choice (not to follow them), we'd have chaos."
McCrory said he's studied the issue of immigration since his days as Charlotte mayor, and he said it clearly has an impact on public safety, including drug trafficking, human trafficking and drunken driving cases.
Some people criticized his decision to sign the bill in Greensboro, where the City Council passed a resolution opposing it. He said he wanted to go there because he grew up in Guilford County and learned civics there.
"What we're instituting by signing this law is basic civics," he said.
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