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City votes down resolution to support immigrant communities in city


The Fayetteville City Council on Monday voted against adopting a “resolution in support of immigrant communities in Fayetteville,” killing the motion to adopt the symbolic gesture with a 4-4 a split vote.

Voting in favor of its passage was Council Member Mario Benavente, who had proposed the motion, as well as Council Members Brenda McNair, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin and Deno Hondros (whose unexcused absence resulted in an automatic “yes” vote). Council Members Lynne Greene and Malik Davis, as well as Mayor Mitch Colvin and Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Jensen, voted against the resolution. 

Council Members Derrick Thompson and D.J. Haire left the meeting before the vote; both were officially excused by the council, so their absences did not count for a vote.

While introducing his request, Benavente said he brought forward the resolution for consideration based on an initiative by Gov. Roy Cooper’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. The governor’s advisory council passed a resolution including much of the same language on Feb. 8 and has been seeking support from municipalities across the state to do the same. A resolution nearly identical to Fayetteville’s failed one was recently passed by town councils in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, which was also inspired by the state advisory council’s initiative.

The local and state resolutions affirming support for North Carolina immigrant communities come as a controversial immigration and law enforcement law, House Bill 10, has passed in the N.C. House of Representatives. This is the third time that lawmakers have attempted to pass an iteration of the bill, which was previously vetoed twice (in 2019 and again in 2022) by Cooper. 

The bill will now be considered in the state senate. If signed into law, it would require sheriffs in the state to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The bill would also require sheriffs to hold individuals charged with certain offenses and with an unknown immigration status while a detainer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement is contacted.

Benavente, who said he was the son of immigrants from Peru and Korea, argued the resolution was locally focused and did not pertain to charged political topics like the current crisis in the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“Any concerns about this being part of larger national debates I don't think are necessarily relevant,” Benavente said in an explanation of his support. “If you read the language here, we're very specific about saying what we're communicating to our citizens about how welcoming this community is and how there are services available for you to work on your immigration status if that's an issue.”  

Other council members, who voted in opposition, argued the resolution was too politicized. 

“Sometimes, politics turns something that's very practical into an argument,” Mayor Mitch Colvin said. “I just want to be careful that the council doesn't get involved in a national issue like this. And I'm sure that's not the intent of the resolution.”

Jensen, who said her mother is a Greek immigrant, voted against the resolution. 

“It's a little bit too political for me,” she said. “I always say this: it's not my lane. You know, as I sit in this chair, my lane is the city of Fayetteville.

Colvin also questioned the purpose of the resolution, asking Benavente, “What is it going to help you accomplish that you can't currently accomplish?”

Benavente said it would help local immigrants feel more comfortable in interactions with law enforcement and being able to call 911. The resolution, like those passed in other municipalities, states that “the collaboration between immigrant communities and local law enforcement is essential for the safety and well-being of all residents.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 7.9% of people in Fayetteville were born outside the U.S. In addition, approximately 13.8% of households in Fayetteville speak a language other than English at home. The number of foreign-born people in North Carolina has increased eightfold since 1990, and Fayetteville’s foreign-born population has also increased in recent years, following this trend. 

Hondros, who had to leave Monday’s meeting early for a community watch meeting, said he is the son of Greek immigrants. He did not have a problem with the language in the resolution and had been “interested in hearing the merits of the presentation.” 

“I don't think there was anything that I saw that was not what we typically want — all services for all citizens,” Hondros said. 

The resolution that came before Fayetteville’s council on Monday was largely identical to those passed and proposed in cities in the Triangle. Unlike the resolutions considered in those cities, Fayetteville’s resolution excludes the sentence, “Advocates for policies at the state and federal level that provide a clear path to citizenship for undocumented residents and protect the rights of refugees and asylees.”

Durham’s city council is set to vote on the same resolution that was passed by Carrboro and Chapel Hill on Thursday. 

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608. 

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immigrants, resolution, immigration