Durham County

Bull City Politics: Durham asks congressmen to fight deportation of men in sanctuary

Durham City Council member Javiera Caballero, left, visits Jose Chicas, who has taken sanctuary from deportation at St. John's Baptist Church School for Conversion in Durham.
Durham City Council member Javiera Caballero, left, visits Jose Chicas, who has taken sanctuary from deportation at St. John's Baptist Church School for Conversion in Durham. Photo courtesy Alerta Migratoria North Carolina

Welcome to Bull City Politics, where I tell you what's going on in Durham and what your elected leaders are doing. Follow me on Twitter at @dawnbvaughan or #BullCitypol.

Sanctuary for immigrants

Javiera Caballero, the first Latina member of the Durham City Council, has spent her first months in office advocating on behalf of Spanish-speaking residents and immigrants.

She recently proposed a resolution supporting the Congregations of Faith movement, which gives sanctuary to immigrants in the United States illegally who are facing imminent deportation.

The City Council unanimously passed the resolution Monday night. Supporters came dressed in white.

"I see everyone who’s here in support," Caballero said. "I just want to say thank you."

They thanked her, and the rest of the council, as well.

"This is a fight that will continue," said Eliazar Posada of El Centro Hispano. The movement will redefine what "sanctuary" means, he said.

The resolution asks U.S. Reps. David Price and G.K. Butterfield to intervene on behalf of two fathers in sanctuary in Durham.

Samuel Oliver-Bruno, who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, is living at CityWell United Methodist Church. And Jose Heriberto Chicas, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, is at St. John's Baptist Church School of Conversion. The resolution mentions four other people taking sanctuary in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Asheboro.

Samuel Oliver-Bruno, 46, was ordered to return to Mexico by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to return to Mexico, instead he entered into sanctuary at CityWell United Methodist Church on Sunday, Dec. 10. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, the church

Read the resolution here: bit.ly/2s92Jfn

A statement from Alerta Migratoria North Carolina said that "in North Carolina, Durham is leading the way, in word and in action, on what standing on the side of immigrants looks like in the age of Trump."

Alerta Migratoria is a deportation defense group led by immigrant women.

Budget public hearing time

The City Council also held a public hearing on the proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget, but with not tax increase, few showed up to talk about it.

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Of the seven speakers, two want city money spent on the Fayetteville Street corridor, which is home to N.C. Central University and historically African-American neighborhoods, including Hayti. Signs telling people the history of the area could jump start the corridor's revitalization, they said.

City workers also spoke about the budget, asking for flat raises instead of so-called "merit" raises that give a percentage increase. Merit raises mean the people who make more money get bigger increases than those making less.

Diane Standaert of the Durham Human Relations Commission thanked the City Council for its decision last week to spend $200,000 on the new Durham Eviction Diversion Program. The money will fund two lawyers and a paralegal to help tenants from being evicted and help both tenants and landlords avoid having to go to court in the first place.

Rosemary and John Abram live on a fixed income. Their apartment building on Morehead Ave. in Durham, NC was sold to a company in Texas in 2017. On April 1, 2018 they were given 30 days to vacate or apply for a renovated, more expensive unit.

Standaert said the money "will ensure people will have a fighting chance of staying in their homes." She called it an important investment in the safety of the community.

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The council didn't take any action on the speakers' comments, but Mayor Steve Schewel said they were listening.

The budget isn't set quite yet. The council will vote to adopt it June 18.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan