Laws banning police officers from asking for immigration status were designed to allow undocumented immigrants to interact with police without fear of deportation, said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank.
Although sanctuary city laws have become more politicized in recent years, he said they are supported by police and have economic benefits.
“It allows (undocumented immigrants) to be more economically active, to travel more freely and to not fear interactions so much with the local or city governments and their jurisdictions,” he said.
But sanctuary cities are operating outside of their legal boundaries, said Ron Woodard, the director of NC LISTEN, an organization advocating stronger immigration control.
“We can’t go around as a society and decide which laws we’re going to obey,” he said. “That’s bedlam.”
Woodard said sanctuary cities allow undocumented immigrants to compete with citizens for jobs and benefits.
“Every dollar that goes to illegal immigrants and their dependents is one less dollar going to our poor citizens,” he said.
Trump’s plan to withhold funding would have to pass through Congress, Nowrasteh said — and then withstand legal challenges.
“It’s not a slam dunk either way constitutionally,” he said.
A year ago, Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 318 into law, banning sanctuary cities in North Carolina.
“Public safety officials must have the flexibility and tools to investigate crimes, and sanctuary city policies deprive law enforcement of those tools,” McCrory said in an October 2015 statement.
Chapel Hill and other cities such as Durham, Carrboro and Charlotte still have laws in place designed to shelter undocumented immigrants.
Since Chapel Hill is not an official sanctuary city, it would likely remain unaffected by Trump’s plan, Chapel Hill Town Council member Ed Harrison said in an email.
Fellow Town Council member Maria Palmer said in an email Chapel Hill doesn’t interfere with enforcement of federal laws.
“We just try to make sure immigrants get treated with the same respect and consideration as anyone else,” she said. “Have you ever been asked your immigration status when pulled over for a broken taillight? Nobody should.”
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said in the aftermath of the election, she is concerned about Trump’s policies.
“I’m sure it sends a horrible message to all immigrants,” Lavelle said.
Nowrasteh said it is possible Trump will reverse course.
“Donald Trump has changed his mind about almost everything throughout his campaign,” he said.
“We could see a reversal of a lot of his positions in the future, so I wouldn’t start packing your bags yet.”