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The Daily Tar Heel

Carrboro Board of Aldermen vote to support immigrant children

The resolution reaffirmed children’s legal right to a public education in the U.S., regardless of immigration status. Advocates hope Carrboro’s decision to pass the resolution will spark similar responses in other local governments across the state.

“Other counties have taken a more negative, non-welcoming tone, and the state of North Carolina has gotten a reputation of being non-immigrant friendly, and this starts to change that,” said George Eppsteiner, staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

The number of unaccompanied immigrant children fleeing violence in Central America — primarily Honduras and El Salvador — and coming to the U. S. increased dramatically this summer. North Carolina has the eighth highest number of child immigrants in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Rowan, Brunswick and Surry counties have passed resolutions asking for the authority to deny immigrant children’s public school enrollment applications as the children await deportation hearings. The N.C. American Civil Liberties Union and the SCSJ encouraged the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to draft more positive legislation, Eppsteiner said.

“We hope that Carrboro is setting a trend now and being a model for other communities,” said Sarah Preston, policy director for N.C. ACLU.

While the aldermen can’t directly affect the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education’s policy, the resolution will be sent to the education board for consideration.

The Board of Aldermen also voted to request that U.S. Rep. David Price encourage legislation in Congress guaranteeing unaccompanied minors due process and legal representation.

Board member Sammy Slade noted that U.S. foreign policy towards Central American countries has a lot to do with the violence and political upheaval that causes children in those countries to flee their homes.

“I just want us to remember that this doesn’t happen out of the blue. We’re very much responsible f or the effects of our policies in other places.”

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist said she tried this summer to garner community support for unaccompanied minors in the state but was disappointed in the lack of response. Gist wanted to raise enough money to enable a group home to accommodate the children, but she said federal standards of care were too high for any group homes to afford.

“I’m hoping that the community maybe will hear again and find ways to support those who are supporting the kids,” she said, “because it’s so hard to do here in North Carolina.”

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