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The Daily Tar Heel

Op-ed: The Town of Chapel Hill pushes back on immigration bill

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The leadership at the North Carolina General Assembly is once again raising some big bright red flags. House Speaker Tim Moore has called on Gov. Cooper to deploy the North Carolina National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border.

That, coupled with the reintroduction of H.B. 10, signals a concerted effort to escalate immigration enforcement and force local law enforcement to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If passed this bill would mandate the detention of individuals accused of crimes for up to 48 hours to allow ICE to verify their immigration status.

The Guardians of the Hill, Carrboro Police Department, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office have worked hard to prioritize public safety without compromising the well-being of immigrant and refugee communities. Our local leaders, including town and county managers and elected officials, have been at the forefront of these efforts, intentionally engaging with immigrant and refugee communities to foster an environment of trust and mutual respect.

Yet, the rhetoric and actions of state leaders pose a significant challenge to these local achievements. It's a strategy that not only seeks to erode the autonomy of local law enforcement but also to sow division and fear within our communities. In response, the Chapel Hill Town Council, on March 6, 2024, became the first local government in the state to issue a resolution that pushes back on H.B. 10. A Resolution in Support of Immigrant Communities in Chapel Hill, brought to the floor by Council Member Theodore Nollert, was passed and read aloud by all council members in attendance. The Carrboro Town Council and Orange County Commissioners are expected to pass similar resolutions in the coming weeks.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that immigrants and refugees will be positioned as the partisan wedge issue for both state and federal races. It's a strategy designed to divide us with fear and it threatens to erode the trust and safety our local law enforcement has worked so diligently to cultivate within our community. However, it also presents an opportunity to affirm our values and take action. The power of our elected officials to issue a resolution in the face of these threats is an act of bravery. What’s more, it is a clear call to North Carolina that our community will not be bullied by House or Senate leaders.

As community members the 2024 general election is our opportunity to push back. We can back up this resolution by registering to vote and voting early. Those who are not eligible to vote can help uplift the candidates and policies that matter. It is a call to organize and engage with your community, knock on doors, attend rallies and get out the vote.

Erik Valera is an artist and community advocate, a member of Governor Roy Cooper’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs and a Planning Commissioner for the Town of Chapel Hill

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