Undocumented immigrants waiting for Charlotte taxpayers to cover their legal fees – as immigrant groups have demanded – are out of luck.
After giving the matter some study, City Attorney Bob Hagemann has issued a concise statement putting the idea to rest.
It won’t happen. Ever.
“As you know, the City can only engage in activities and expend public funds as authorized by the General Assembly,” Hagemann said. “The General Assembly has not authorized the activities or expenditure of public funds (for a deportation defense fund).”
Mayor Jennifer Roberts addressed the demand herself in a recent interview on Spanish-language radio stations La Raza 106.1 FM and Latina 102.3 FM. She said it was very unlikely the City Council would approve a deportation defense fund, “when there are other programs that need help, such as housing assistance.”
A group called Comunidad Colectiva recently released a list of demands on behalf of undocumented immigrants, including one calling for a “distribution of funds to provide legal services for immigrants in deportation proceedings.” That demand was issued just a day or two before the group and its supporters caused chaos at a city council meeting, yelling, threatening and cursing at council members. No one was arrested, but one person was escorted out by police.
Communidad Colectiva also wants city leaders to fight a North Carolina statute, known as House Bill 318, that prohibits local governments from restricting law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration officials. And the group wants the city to oppose the federal 287(g) program in which local police collaborate with immigration agencies.
Roberts was quoted in the La Raza 106.1 FM interview as saying she tried to get the council to pass a statement of support for the immigrant community, but she could not get enough votes. She also noted city officials have no power over the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, which abides by the 287(g) program. (Last year, 100 people were deported after being processed by the county’s jail.)
“I know we need the presence of immigrants to survive as a country, as a city, “ Roberts said in the radio interview.
Comunidad Colectiva member Rosalba Tlalolini recently told the Spanish language newspaper Que Pasa Mi Gente that Charlotte leaders are misinformed about the extent of ICE arrests being carried out in the city. Some advocates in the immigrant community have accused federal agents of over stepping rules since the election of President Donald Trump, including “raids” and road check points to round up undocumented immigrants.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has denied being engaged in such activities.
“I do not know what sources consult the councilmen, but they are wrong,” Tlalolini told Que Pasa Mi Gente. “President Trump himself said that with the raids he was fulfilling his campaign promise.”
ICE officials say the 30-plus undocumented immigrants arrested in Mecklenburg County so far this year are either convicted criminals, facing felony charges, or they have been deported once before and re-entered the country.
The N.C. General Assembly is currently studying bills that will make it tougher for people to live illegally in the state.
House Bill 63, which is moving through the General Assembly, would make it harder for undocumented immigrants to get bail if they’re arrested for even minor crimes. And it would penalize cities deemed to be “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants.