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With new ICE law looming in NC, activists rally in Asheville against HB10

Rally in front of the remaining base of the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville
Jose Sandoval
Rally in front of the remaining base of the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville

At an Asheville rally against House Bill 10 in North Carolina, community members and activists on Tuesday said the legislation is an attack on the immigrant community.

As previously reported by BPR, a version of the controversial bill was vetoed two years ago by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

HB10 would require all North Carolina sheriffs to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including by verifying the immigration status of detainees in local jails and collaborating in deportation proceedings.

The bill would require sheriffs to honor ICE requests to detain – for at least 48 hours – individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. Local prisons would foot the bill for processing and housing detainees while federal officials review their immigration status. All counties would be required to share detention databases and attempt to find out the immigration status of any person in the local jail.

Signs were made by Mel Espinoza when they were protesting the 287-g agreement in Henderson County.
Jose Sandoval
Signs were made by Mel Espinoza when they were protesting the 287-g agreement in Henderson County.

Compañeros Inmigrantes de las Montañas en Acción (CIMA), an Asheville-based non-profit organization that supports immigrants’ rights in Western North Carolina, held a vigil at the remaining base of the Vance Monument in downtown to voice its stance. About 70 people attended.

Ernesto Tocoa, a member of the CIMA community outreach team, said the bill will instill fear. He even recalled his own experience when ICE detained more than a dozen local people in 2018.

“I was working in construction and the truth is, I didn't work for a whole week for fear that I would leave my house and that immigration would catch me and leave my three children here in the United States,” Tocoa said.

Tocoa pointed out that immigrants sustain the economy in and around downtown Asheville.

“In all the restaurants here around downtown and in the hotels, there are immigrant people washing the dishes, cleaning the floors, washing the sheets. There are even people working in the court building here and they are immigrants,” he said.

Community outreach member for CIMA, Dulce Morales, said the proposed bill will have a ripple effect stemming from family separation.

“It will affect our Latino students and the economy. It will put them in a dangerous place. You will see abuses such as wage theft,” Morales said.

“When someone from the community goes to work a job, someone could say they aren’t going to pay you – I’ll call the police. It will generate fear in the community and the trust between the police and the undocumented Latino community because they will be afraid to call the police.”

Morales added that if the bill becomes law, CIMA will help the community prepare.

“We want to start with ‘know your rights’ workshops. Give those training and spaces where parents can have power of attorney letters,” said Morales.

“If parents are detained, what is going to happen to their children? With these power of attorney letters, that will allow the parents to have a say in where their kids end up. And if there's any positive to this, it will bring the community together.”

The proposed bill passed in the N.C. Senate last week and will head to the House of Representatives soon, where it’s expected to pass. Cooper likely will veto the legislation but Republicans hold a supermajority in the House, which means HB10 could become law with an override vote. If enacted, the bill would take effect July 1.

Jose Sandoval is the afternoon host and reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio.
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