Is Durham Really a Sanctuary City? | Triangulator | Indy Week

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Is Durham Really a Sanctuary City?

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When President Trump announced his intention to withhold federal funding from "sanctuary cities," at least one Durham resident got worried. The city, after all, passed a resolution in October 2003 aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants. The ordinance, Resolution 9046, prohibits police from targeting people based solely on their immigration status. In other words, a person's immigration status would not be checked unless that person was involved in a "serious crime."

Worried that this directive could qualify Durham as a sanctuary city, the resident emailed members of the city council to ask whether the city had jeopardized a funding source for light rail. After all, the feds are supposed to kick in half of the project's $1.6 billion price tag.

City attorney Patrick Baker weighed in, via email: "I am not aware that Durham has been classified or perceived by the Federal government as a 'sanctuary city' but I am also not aware that the federal government has ever defined the term 'sanctuary city' or has maintained such a list of cities."

So, aside from its other funding difficulties—thank you, General Assembly—it seems Durham's kindness to immigrants won't be the thing that kills its big mass transit ambitions. Except, it also seems Resolution 9046 isn't working all that well. In an unrelated email to council members, another citizen revealed that "a neighbor of mine was taken into custody for deportation last week." He was detained when he "reported to court" over a traffic violation. "I wanted you to know that in our 'sanctuary city' young people who are working hard, being good neighbors, and trying to do the right thing are still being seized."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Technical Difficulties."

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