Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said Monday that he “doesn’t see how” Charlotte could be defined as a sanctuary city and that the city is in compliance with state and federal law.
Hagemann discussed with City Council the Trump administration’s recent executive order targeting sanctuary cities, which refuse to comply with the federal government in enforcing immigration law. The attorney said he believes Charlotte won’t have any legal trouble with the order, but he said he believes the Trump administration would first focus on cities that openly oppose it, such as San Francisco.
The issue began two years ago, when council members passed a civil rights resolution. The resolution said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police would not inquire about the immigration status of people it came in contact with, except if the person was believed to be involved with terrorism or a violent gang. It also said police would not act upon information about someone possibly being in the country illegally.
That upset the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Legislators passed a law prohibiting such bans on collecting information about immigration status.
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In response, the city removed all such language from its civil rights resolution and from CMPD’s policies and procedures.
While the city has taken a hands-off approach, the Sheriff’s Office – which runs the jail – is more aggressive. It participates in the federal government’s 287g program, in which the federal government can ask the jail to put a hold on people suspected of being in the country illegally.
Hagemann believes Trump’s order focuses on cities that don’t cooperate with requests to hold people in jails.
Republican council member Ed Driggs asked Hagemann whether there is any way someone could allege Charlotte isn’t complying with state law or Trump’s order. He said he is worried that Republican legislators may use the issue to withhold funding from Charlotte.
“Can you think of how someone could say, ‘We see it differently’?” Driggs said. “The attention was triggered by the civil rights resolution. Some people saw that as a declaration.”
While Driggs was worried about blowback from Raleigh, other council members were worried about CMPD’s relationship with the immigrant community.
Democrat Julie Eiselt said CMPD needed to convey its position to the city’s immigrant communities.
“We need simple language,” she said. “We need to give people comfort.”
Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, agreed.
The problem, however, is that CMPD can’t officially say they don’t or won’t ask about someone’s immigration status. If police did, they could be violating state law.
CMPD chief Kerr Putney said he tells people, “We are here trying to prevent crime. There is no questioning about anything else. We are looking for crime victims and crime suspects.”