Welcoming City resolution headed to divided City Council

Welcoming City resolution headed to divided City Council
March 23
05:30 2017



A resolution welcoming immigrants and minorities will come before a divided City Council during its Monday, March 27, meeting.

For months, residents with the Winston-Salem Sanctuary City Coalition have gone before the council asking for them to adopt a Sanctuary City petition. Such petitions are prohibited by state law and a recent executive action by President Donald Trump. City Council Member Dan Besse came up with a welcoming city petition as a way to reassure immigrant and minority populations without violating any law.

The resolution says the city “takes pride in serving and protecting” all residents and “opposes any measures which target populations within our diverse community for legal scrutiny or other challenges.” It doesn’t prohibit the city from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement, which is what actions against sanctuary cities prohibit.

“My resolution does not change what the City of Winston-Salem does. It is a clear and simple affirmation of what we intend to continue to do,” said Besse.

City Attorney Angela Carmon said that she believed the resolution doesn’t violate any statute and followed the “letter of the law,” but cautioned that other attorneys could have a different interpretation.

Residents who are for and against the petition and resolution have spoken before the council over the past few months. Neither side got to comment during the general government committee meeting on Monday, March 21. It was the City Council’s turn, as the committee voted 3-1 to send the resolution to the full council.

Council Members Derwin Montgomery, Denise “D.D.” Adams and Besse supported it, while Robert Clark, the council’s sole Republican, opposed it. The three supporters said that it was needed to reassure a fearful public in the current political environment and that it doesn’t restrict the enforcement of any law.

“There comes a point where you have to say something to make people feel safe,” said Montgomery, who chairs the general government committee.

Clark felt it was picking an unnecessary “partisan war.” He compared the resolution to Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, which the General Assembly passed the controversial HB 2 law in reaction to.

“If you want to make it a better city, make it a better city,” said Clark. “Don’t pick a fight with Raleigh and Washington for your own political interest.”

Adams is running for Congress in the Fifth District. She said her support of the petition was because it was good for the city, not because she’s running for higher office. Besse hasn’t run for higher office since his Lt. Governor bid in 2008. City Council is the only office Montgomery has run for.

Other council members not on the committee also gave their thoughts. Jeff MacIntosh said he liked the concept of it, but said he feared the city could face economic penalties over the resolution and wouldn’t support it. John Larson was undecided, saying that he wasn’t afraid to take a stand, but wasn’t sure if now was the right time. Council Members James Taylor and Vivian Burke weren’t in attendance.

Opponents were unhappy with the vote. Reggie Reid said he felt it encouraged the exploitation of undocumented immigrants, which he compared to Jim Crow and slavery.

“It’s a horrible idea,” he said.

Supporters were elated. Valeria Cobos, who’s regularly spoken at council meetings for the sanctuary city petition, said it was a step in the right direction. She disagreed with Clark’s assertion that the Welcoming City resolution was politically motivated since it was a response to citizens’ requests.

“This is about making the city a safer place for everyone,” she said.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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