Bill would punish ‘sanctuary’ cities

Gary D. Robertson - Associated Press

RALEIGH — North Carolina House Republicans on Tuesday sought to expand the scope of proposed immigration legislation, bidding to withhold more tax dollars from local governments conducting “sanctuary” policies and to allow citizens to sue to halt such activities.

A House judiciary committee discussed the updated legislation, but still didn’t vote on the measure after more outside speakers and debate by panel members. A vote could come next week, according to the committee’s chairman.

“We certainly don’t want to rush anything through,” said Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.

The measure would add monetary punishments to a 2015 state law barring local government policies that discourage compliance with federal immigration law or police from collecting information about the immigration status of suspects and others.

Groups representing cities and counties say they don’t know of any locality that has such policies. Still, bill supporters argue more negative incentives are needed to prevent sanctuary policies. The Durham Police Department announced this week that it was suspending traffic checkpoints, citing concerns over whether they were used to enforce immigration laws. The department has denied that claim.

The original bill debated two weeks ago would have ordered local taxes collected by the state on beer and wine, piped natural gas, telecommunications and video programming be withheld. The updated measure would expand lost revenue, including road-building funds for municipalities.

The amended measure also directs the Attorney General’s Office to receive and investigate complaints from anyone alleging local governments are violating the law. The bill also would allow someone to sue in Wake County court and demand a judge declare a city or county was breaking the law. Chief bill sponsor Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, said details about the attorney general’s involvement came in response to earlier questions from committee members.

Robert Paschal, a representative for new Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, told the committee Stein’s agency needed more time to review the agency’s proposed responsibilities.

Outside speakers said Tuesday the law would only intensify fears among immigrants unlawfully in the country to report crimes. Some focused on a provision that would set a presumption for judges to deny bond to any criminal suspect unlawfully in the country who is either charged with a violent crime or is the subject of a federal effort to be removed from the U.S. A defendant can present evidence to try to seek a bond.

“The problem that this is attempting to resolve really doesn’t exist,” said Hans Christian Linnartz, a Raleigh immigration attorney, adding judges and magistrates can already listen to any evidence when determining whether a person is a flight risk.

But Chris Storie of Granite Falls urged them to pass the bill. Storie said the suspect in a 2011 Outer Banks wreck that killed Storie’s brother and injured her was unlawfully in the country and ultimately got out of jail on bond. The suspect is now a fugitive, she said.

“We are permanently separated from by brother,” Storie told committee members, wearing a shirt embossed with a picture of her brother, Joe, who died at 51.

Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

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