immigration, News

Legislature sends immigration bill to Cooper; scores of nonprofits and businesses call for veto

The state House of Representatives gave final approval this afternoon to legislation that would force local sheriffs to hold individuals that they would otherwise release, based on “detainer” requests from federal immigration officials. The House vote was 62-53.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to aid law enforcement in protecting public safety, but opponents have argued forcefully that it will have the opposite effect. After the bill passed the ACLU of North Carolina released a statement calling on Gov. Cooper to veto the measure accompanied by endorsements from scores of national and state-level nonprofits and state-based businesses.

RALEIGH – More than 70 national organizations, 40 North Carolina groups, and 80 North Carolina businesses are urging Governor Roy Cooper to veto a bill that would force all North Carolina county sheriffs to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining and deporting community members or face removal from office.

In separate letters, the organizations say the bill would harm North Carolinians by spreading fear within immigrant communities, further accelerating the federal government’s deportation machine, and subverting the will of the voters.

House Bill 370, which has been approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, would require county jails to comply with a request from federal immigration officers to hold someone in jail, even if they are eligible for release under North Carolina law. So-called “ICE detainer requests” often lack probable cause and can lead to the prolonged detention of people without a court order, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

“By vetoing this brazen attack on North Carolina’s sheriffs and voters who have made it clear they do not want ICE terrorizing their communities, Governor Cooper can send an important message that he supports both local law enforcement and the rights of all communities,” said Susanna Birdsong, Senior Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, one of the groups urging Cooper to veto. “This dangerous bill strips local law enforcement of their ability to make decisions in the best interest of public safety, forcing every county in North Carolina to divert resources to do the bidding of President Trump’s deportation force whether they want to or not. Governor Cooper should put a stop to this extreme agenda, stand up for local law enforcement, and veto this bill without delay.”

In a separate letter to Cooper, the ACLU of North Carolina explained the constitutional concerns with requiring sheriffs to unconditionally comply with all detainer requests received from ICE, whose history presents a troubling pattern of illegal arrests.

Last year, voters in North Carolina’s two largest counties – Mecklenburg and Wake – elected sheriffs who campaigned on promises, now fulfilled, to end their involvement in the federal 287(g) program, a partnership with federal immigration officers that has led to the deportation of thousands from North Carolina. Newly elected sheriffs in Buncombe, Forsyth, Guilford, and Durham counties have also announced that they will no longer hold people in jail on ICE detainer requests.

“If Governor Cooper allows this anti-immigrant bill to become law, it will spread more fear across our communities, tear apart families, and force local governments to divert resources to fuel the Trump administration’s deportation pipeline,” said Martha Hernandez, community organizer with Comite de Accion Popular. “It’s important that our state’s highest elected official take a stand for the rights of North Carolina communities and against this extreme anti-immigrant political agenda.”

The full list of groups signing each letter is: Read more

News

A year without “Silent Sam” at UNC

Silent Sam in its former site at McCorkle Place at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Today marks one year since the toppling of the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The monument, erected in 1913 as part of a what historians call a new wave of white supremacist sentiment, was torn down by protesters after decades of controversy and attempts to legally secure its removal. Its damaged remains are now kept by the school in an undisclosed location as its return to campus becomes increasingly unlikely.

Conflicts over the toppling of the statue and how to respond played into deep tensions with the UNC Board of Governors that led to the resignations of both former UNC System President Margaret Spellings and former UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt.

The men who replaced them — Dr. Bill Roper as interim UNC System President and Kevin Gusciewicz as interim chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill — have both gone on record saying the statue should not return to the campus.

With UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith reversing position to oppose the statue’s return, there is no longer even a timeline for any decision on the monument’s future.

A year on, the toppling of “Silent Sam” seems to have had a profound impact not only on the campus and its politics but on the continuing struggle over Confederate statues. Earlier this year the city of Winston-Salem removed a similar statue despite objections by the Daughters of the Confederacy. On Monday night the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted to remove another Confederate monument in Pittsboro.

As students prepare to celebrate a year without the statue on campus tonight, it’s worth looking back at the important events leading up to and following in the wake of “Silent Sam’s” removal.

A “Silent Sam” Timeline

July 22, 2015: Former Gov. Pat McCrory signs a law making it more difficult to remove “objects of remembrance” as sentiment grows against Confederate monuments. Statues such as “Silent Sam” are voluntarily removed across the South. Others are vandalized and torn down by protesters.

August 22, 2017: Spellings emails the UNC Board of Governors a letter sent to Gov. Roy Cooper outlining concerns the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue could pose a threat to students and could, in the charged environment, be in danger of being damaged or destroyed. The letter urged Cooper to convene the N.C. Historical Commission to “take up this matter and to consider what steps should be taken, consistent with the law.” The letter was signed by Spellings, Folt, then Chairman Louis Bissette and UNC Board of Trustees Chairman Haywood Cochrane. It touched off a political firestorm and a letter signed by 15 board members criticizing Spellings for going to Cooper, a Democrat, as weakness and hand-wringing. Ultimately, the board rejects Cooper’s suggestion that danger to the campus and statue justifies its removal, despite a 2015 law passed to prevent the removal of such monuments.

May 24, 2018: Harry Smith is elected chairman of the UNC Board of Governors. Smith is one of the board members who signed the letter critical of Spellings and part of a more combative and conservative wing of the board that has had a number of public conflicts with her and Folt.

August 21, 2018: Protesters topple the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument. Board of Governors members criticize Folt and Spellings’ handling of the protests leading up to its toppling and the response to the event.

October 26, 2018: UNC System President Margaret Spellings resigns after a tenure marked with the tensions with the UNC Board of Governors. She does not deny there have been tensions but insists it is simply time for her to move on.

November 1, 2018: UNC Board of Governors announces Dr. William Roper, CEO of UNC Healthcare, as interim President of the UNC System.

December 3, 2018: UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees suggests housing the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue in a new, $5.3 million UNC history center that would also feature other items from UNC’s history and include classroom space. The center would be at the edge of the developed campus with far more security than its original site at McCorkle Place.

December 14, 2018: The Board of Governors rejects the history center plan and appoints a task force of board members to work with Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees on a new plan for the statue by mid-March.

January 14, 2019: UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt announces her resignation. In the announcement, which took the UNC Board of Governors by surprise, she also announced that she had ordered the base of the toppled Confederate statue removed from McCorkle Place. Members of the Board of Governors – including Chairman Harry Smith – condemn the order and criticize Folt not speaking with the board about stepping down.

January 15, 2019: The UNC Board of Governors accepts Folt’s resignation, but announces they will not allow her to serve until the end of the semester as she intended. Instead, they announce her last day will be January 31. The board authorizes interim UNC System President William Roper to appoint an interim chancellor as soon as he sees fit.

February 1, 2019: Roper and Interim UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Gusciewicz both go on record opposing the return of “Silent Sam” to campus.

May 22, 2019: Smith goes on record as saying that returning “Silent Sam” to campus is “not the right path.” Though the board had set multiple deadlines to announce a plan for the statue’s future, Smith said there it no longer makes sense to set arbitrary timelines on the issue.

 

Commentary, News

Dangerous anti-immigrant bill moving in the NC House today

The House Rules Committee voted to concur with Senate amendments to House Bill 370 and send it to the House floor today. As you will recall, HB 370 is the dangerous, Trump administration-inspired bill  that would force local sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A final floor vote could happen this afternoon.

As we observed back in late June, the bill will, if it becomes law, endanger public safety:

Simply put, when immigrant communities lose faith in local law enforcement and come to see it as an arm of ICE, they greatly reduce the rate at which they report crimes and cooperate with local officers. Bill proponents have attempted to undercut this argument by highlighting a handful of isolated incidents in which individuals released by sheriffs have committed serious crimes. The trouble with this reasoning, however, is that it elevates anecdotes over hard data.

That’s why representatives of the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence authored a joint letter this spring expressing their deep concerns about the proposal.

As the letter pointed out:

“Victims who do not have documented status are already threatened with deportation on a regular basis by abusers who are aware of their status. If HB 370 passes, abusers and traffickers would have a new weapon to strengthen these threats and hold them over victims’ heads when a victim is trying to call 911 for help. Such reports – or the threat of such reports – would be an extremely powerful weapon for abusers.”

The letter goes on to note that, as they are for many citizens, domestic violence situations can be enormously complex. While they may need protection, many victims often depend on their abusers for basic needs – including support of their children – and therefore do not want them deported.

Add to these basic public safety concerns the distraction from more serious law enforcement matters that the constant entanglement with immigration enforcement will inevitably cause –indeed, many immigrants will find themselves held without bail for minor offenses, and even driving violations – and the proposal looks that much worse.

The bottom line: As it is with the vast majority of the Trump anti-immigrant agenda, HB 370 is not about promoting public safety; it is about advancing a xenophobic political agenda rooted in fear and racism. A promised veto from Gov. Cooper will be welcome and should be sustained.

News

UNC-Chapel Hill’s new Chief of Police announced, students question choice

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a new Chief of Police.

But the choice is already a controversial one.

David Perry was announced as the next UNC-Chapel Hill Chief of Police Monday.

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz announced late Monday that David L. Perry will serve as the new assistant vice chancellor and chief of UNC Police beginning Sept. 3.

Perry comes to UNC from Florida State University, where his tenure as chief of police included criticism of the handling of two rape allegations against Jameis Winston, then FSU’s quarterback and later a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The handling of the 2012 rape allegations and Perry’s actions specifically were criticized at the time. The controversy was the subject of reports from the New York Times and featured in the Emmy nominated documentary “The Hunting Ground,” about the epidemic of sexual assaults on American college campuses.

The Times investigation found “there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.”

“The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter,” the Times report said. “After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.”

Prosecutor William Meggs said the investigation was badly mishandled from the beginning. Charges were not filed. Winston was eventually cleared of violating the student conduct code by an FSU hearing in which retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Major B. Harding said he did “not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other.”

Winston and his accuser filed civil suits against each other which were ultimately settled out of court.

The student who alleged she was raped sued FSU, claiming  the university “in concert with Tallahassee Police, took steps to ensure that Winston’s [alleged] rape of plaintiff would not be investigated either by the university or law enforcement.”

The university settled the suit for $950,000.

Winston went on to have a series of legal and disciplinary problems, including a three game suspension in 2018 for the alleged groping of a female Uber driver.

No mention of the rape investigation controversy was made in Guskiewicz’s message to the community.

“Chief Perry joins us from Florida State University and brings to Carolina a distinguished 25-year career in law enforcement and campus safety,” the statement read. “He has embraced community policing and has demonstrated success in building relationships between campus police and the community. Through my many conversations with him, I know he is looking forward to expanding that philosophy at Carolina and is committed to ensuring his department has access to the latest in law enforcement training, education, technology and professional development.”

Perry will oversee a department that currently has 53 full-time, sworn police officers.

Prominent student activists, already frustrated with police policies on campus, are decrying the choice online.

 

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

NC has nation’s third highest total of excessive deaths from failure to expand Medicaid

In case you missed it, there are some new and incredibly sobering numbers out that ought to be interfering with the sleep patterns of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. As Alexandra Sirota of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center recently reported:

New research released by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides estimates of the life and death impact of Medicaid expansion.  While many researchers have pointed to the improvements to health outcomes, management of health conditions, and quality of life that comes with access to affordable health care for those in need, this data provides new and compelling evidence that the decision to expand Medicaid has a profound affect on the life expectancy of adults living in the coverage gap.

By linking death records and data on program participation and health outcomes across all states, the authors of this new report estimate the impact of Medicaid expansion on the mortality rate of near-elderly adults.  Their findings point to a 9.3 percent decline in annual mortality for this age group in those states with Medicaid expansion.  The primary reason for the improvement in life expectancy is disease management while under the care of Medicaid.

In addition to this nationwide comparison, the researchers provide estimates of the number of excessive deaths in North Carolina due to the failure of Medicaid expansion.  Three hundred and fifty people in North Carolina died because of the lack of affordable health care coverage.  This represents the third highest number of excessive deaths for a state that hasn’t expanded Medicaid behind Texas and Florida.