The start to 2015 marked the continuation of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s efforts in empowering the immigrant community in North Carolina to protect the human and educational rights of their children. On January 5, 2015, the Durham City Council unanimously passed a resolution that is welcoming and supportive of immigrant children, including those who travel alone to the United States to escape violence and extreme poverty. The resolution’s strong language states that immigrant children are important members of the community, should be afforded legal representation at immigration proceedings (children are not guaranteed the right to an attorney in immigration proceedings), and have an absolute right to attend public schools, which is consistent with federal law and the United States Constitution.
The City of Durham is the largest jurisdiction in NC to pass a welcoming resolution for immigrant children. Durham’s City Council became the fourth NC local government entity to pass a resolution after similar resolutions were passed by Carrboro’s Board of Alderman (11/18), the Orange County Board of Commissioners (12/1), and the Chapel Hill Town Council (12/3) in 2014.
George Eppsteiner, staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, was particularly encouraged by Durham’s passage of the resolution since Durham has the largest population of “unaccompanied children” than any other jurisdiction in North Carolina that has passed a positive or negative resolution regarding immigrant children. The City of Durham, with its vibrant immigrant community, has made a statement supporting immigrant children and affirming their constitutional right to attend public schools in North Carolina.
Eppsteiner, on behalf of SCSJ, has worked with community organizations, including the NC Latino Coalition and the ACLU of NC, and community members to pass welcoming resolutions and was impressed with the community’s response in Durham. “We were able to work with immigrant students, teachers, community leaders, and public officials to pass this resolution. We had over forty people from the community come out to support the resolution on January 5th and it looks like momentum is growing elsewhere.”
SCSJ hopes to continue to work with communities in North Carolina to pass resolutions that are supportive and empowering of the immigrant community in 2015 and beyond.