Durham Officials Debate City's Stance On Immigration
Posted August 26, 2004 4:38 a.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — Some people say local law enforcement should be on the front line of spotting illegal immigrants, but at least one community in the Triangle area disagrees.
Homeland Security may be the talk of Washington, but in Durham, the talk is about protecting immigrants' rights.
"After 9/11, I think the fear in this country began to rise a lot," said Angelina Schiavone, of El Centro Hispano.
That fear affected the Latino community adversely. That is why Durham passed a resolution to prohibit law enforcement and city workers from asking about a person's immigration status.
Sylvia Gomez said Durham's stance on immigration gives her the freedom to live life without the constant fear of deportation.
"We can walk any street free and relax because nobody is asking, 'Are you legal or illegal,'" she said.
"We want to make sure that we are providing services for all of our citizens based on their status as Durham citizens and not get into their immigration status," said Mayor Pro-Tem Cora Cole MacFadden.
Durham leaders said the resolution helps foster better relationships between immigrants and the city and does not compromise Homeland Security.
"If you're violating the law, we'll deal with you like any other bad guy," said Maj. B.J. Council, of the Durham Police Department.
"We are not out looking for terrorists. We are here to serve the public and make sure the city is safe. That's our major focus," MacFadden said.
Randy Lewis, of the group "Stop The Invasion," spoke out in front of Durham's City Council against the resolution.
"People from other countries are coming into this country at an alarming rate, and we don't have any idea if they are a harmless illegal alien or they are here to do something bad," he said.
Police said the resolution is working well. They will refer someone to immigration officials if they have been involved in crimes involving a gun. So far, it has happened 15 times this year.