Winston-Salem Fights Over “Sanctuary” Status
The City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, might soon become a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants.
Councilman Dan Besse announced a proposal to declare Winston-Salem a “welcoming city” last February. While the proposal does not include the word “sanctuary,” Councilman Robert Clark knows that it aims to create a sanctuary city without the title.
Besse avoided the “sanctuary” moniker on purpose. North Carolina state law prohibits cities from declaring themselves sanctuaries. Clark sees right through this, and fears that if the law passes, Winston-Salem might no longer receive state funding.
“There is no definition of sanctuary city,” according to Clark. “There is a lot of noise at the federal level. I would suggest we do nothing, no resolution, no documents, nothing.” Councilman Clark fears federal retaliation. However, the city has more to worry about than a potential loss of funding.
A State Against Sanctuary Cities
North Carolina’s General Assembly passed a resolution in 2015 barring any county or municipality from limiting local law enforcement’s ability to assist federal immigration officials. State senators are even considering a bill that would financially penalize cities providing a “sanctuary status.”
Despite the General Assembly repeatedly rejecting, the Winston-Salem City Council continues to push forward the reckless policy. On March 21st, general government committee of city council voted 3-1 in favor of the proposal. The lone vote against the proposal came from Councilman Clark – who also happens to be the council’s only Republican.
Potential Opposition from Democrats
The proposal is expected to encounter additional resistance when it reaches a vote in front of the entire council. Jeff MacIntosh, a Democratic councilman who represents the Northwest Ward of Winston-Salem, is suggesting he will vote against the resolution. Similar to Clark, MacIntosh is framing his vote around avoiding a political confrontation with North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly.
“We’re having this discussion because of several decades of inaction at the federal level about immigration policy,” MacIntosh stated. While his personal beliefs align with the proposal, MacIntosh opposes it because he believes Winston-Salem will suffer economic penalties if the bill passes.
To Clark and MacIntosh’s credit, both representatives appear to be deciding their vote on the basis of their constituent’s needs, instead of personal beliefs. To avoid having conflicting policies with the N.C. General Assembly, residents must continue to voice opposition towards the sanctuary policies.