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AP
Cooper quickly vetoes immigration bill that required N.C. sheriffs to agree to ICE requests

RALEIGH — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday vetoed legislation requiring North Carolina sheriffs to recognize requests by federal immigration agents to hold jail inmates believed to be in the country illegally, calling the bill unconstitutional and politically motivated.

The veto came a day after the GOP-controlled legislature gave the legislation final approval. It was filed in response to several recently elected Democratic sheriffs who are refusing to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, particularly on immigration detainers.

Cooper, a former N.C. attorney general, had signaled in June that the legislation would likely be vetoed, and Republicans had idled the bill until this week.

“This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina,” Cooper said in his written veto message. “As the former top law enforcement officer of our state, I know that current law allows the state to jail and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status.”

The detainers, which ask that a suspect be held up to 48 hours for pickup, aren’t arrest warrants, so currently they can be ignored. The bill’s Republican sponsors said sheriffs should work with ICE.

The dissenting sheriffs — all of them African American and most of them in the state’s largest counties — opposed the bill, saying it would worsen public safety and make immigrants who were victims of crime afraid of coming forward. Immigration and civil rights advocates praised the veto, having warned previously that arresting people on detainers violates due process rights and would lead to litigation.

GOP legislative leaders can try to override the veto. That would require Republicans to gain support from several Democrats, but not a single Democrat voted for the bill sent to Cooper’s desk. The Republican Party holds majorities in both chambers, but they aren’t veto-proof.

Republicans led by N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore blasted Cooper at a news conference held minutes after the veto was announced, saying Cooper turned his back on the public and victims of crime.

The overwhelming majority of North Carolinians “believe that law enforcement ought to work together,” said state Rep. Destin Hall, a Catawba County Republican and chief bill sponsor. “They believe that our sheriffs ought to be working with federal law enforcement officials and by his veto today, Gov. Cooper has signaled that he wants to be a sanctuary governor.”

As they have during legislative debate, Republicans cited situations in Mecklenburg County — in and around Charlotte — where violent suspects who were subjects of detainers had been released from jail. State Sen. Dan Bishop, a Mecklenburg County Republican who is running for Congress, said the dissenting sheriffs lacked moderation.

“The only sheriffs who have opposed it are the ones that are actually ignoring these ICE detainers,” Moore said. “They’re the most left of the leftists at this point.”

The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, representing all sheriffs, backed the legislation after changes were made in the N.C. Senate, one of which would let a judge or magistrate issue the order to hold a suspect who is subject to a detainer.

Cooper also said he vetoed the bill because of a provision directing that a sheriff be removed from office for failing to meet new immigration duties. They would include checking the records of anyone jailed for an alleged criminal offense to see if they were sought by federal immigrant agents.

More that 100 national and North Carolina groups had urged Cooper to veto the legislation.

“This bill only serves to undermine the will of voters who have elected sheriffs with the goal of creating a safer, more welcoming environment,” the immigrant advocacy group El Pueblo said in a news release thanking Cooper and urging that the veto be upheld. It also criticized language used in the legislative debate that “sent a message that certain people are to be feared.”


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RAILROAD SAFETY

A month after a man was struck and killed by a train in Greensboro, officials are reminding pedestrians about the dangers of railroad crossings. Greensboro police, Norfolk Southern employees and North Carolina Operation Lifesaver distributed railway safety information Wednesday at railroad crossings in the area.

In 2018, 31 people in North Carolina died along railroad tracks, according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit group that focuses on railway public safety education and awareness. Of those fatalities, 19 involved walking on or along railroad tracks and 12 were vehicle accidents involving a train, the group said.

Find more photos from the event at greensboro.com.


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breaking
Brooks Global repairs complete; students will start school Monday

GREENSBORO — Students at Brooks Global Studies won’t split up after all when the school year starts on Monday.

Repairs to the building’s foundation are complete and city inspectors have certified the building for occupancy, Guilford County Schools said Wednesday in a news release.

The extended-year magnet school would have started Aug. 8, but “extensive repairs” were needed to floor joists supporting part of the building. The Guilford County Board of Education approved the repairs at an emergency meeting July 22, with a goal of getting the work done by the time students on the traditional calendar started their school year. Officials said previously the work was expected to cost about $300,000.

If repairs had not been completed in time, officials planned to split students up. Fourth- and fifth-graders would have started the school year at nearby Kiser Middle, and third-grade classrooms would have shifted to other parts of the school, the district said.

“We are so grateful to everyone involved for working quickly to get to this resolution,” Scott McCully, chief operations officer, said in the release. “Our goal was to keep Brooks Global students together while still making sure that the building was in good working order, and that’s what we’ve done.”

The damage was discovered after school officials called in maintenance to look at some cracked tiles. Workers noticed damage to the concrete floor joists — beams that support the floor. An engineering firm with a camera-carrying robot was brought in to further explore beneath the school and found corrosion in the exposed steel used to reinforce the joists.

Engineers told the district that eight of the nine classrooms in the third- through fifth-grade wing were compromised, though the rest of the school checked out fine underneath.

The work involved shoring up the compromised flooring. However, it is a short-term fix expected to last for a year to a year and a half. The district has not said what it plans to do in the long-term.


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N.C. A&T’s chancellor looks ahead to a new academic year

GREENSBORO — More students and more housing are two things coming to N.C. A&T this year.

On the first day of fall semester classes at A&T, Chancellor Harold Martin on Wednesday also spelled out changes in how the university will handle student complaints of sexual misconduct.

A&T “has enormous potential and opportunity,” said Martin, who is starting his 11th year as chancellor of the largest four-year historically black university in the country. “More importantly, there are growing expectations of our university in this region, this state and in the nation as a whole.”

Here are some highlights from his 40-minute meeting with local news reporters Wednesday:

  • Campus housing: A&T bought parts of a large
  • local
  • apartment complex near campus in 2018 and another smaller complex earlier this year. Look for those sorts of purchases to continue, Martin said, as A&T tries to keep up with student demand for campus housing.

This fall, about 5,000 students will live in residence halls or apartments owned or managed by the university. That’s about 40% of all undergraduates — a higher percentage than most other UNC system universities, Martin said, but well short of local demand.

A&T is leasing space at local apartment complexes this fall for about 400 students who signed up for campus housing but didn’t get assigned a dorm room.

To provide more campus housing, the university hopes to break ground soon on a new 420-bed residence hall on Bluford Street.

A&T also might buy more properties in the area. Martin declined to say which — or how many — apartment complexes A&T has its eye on.

“We say this to our students … we have to manage the risk of growing too fast because (residence halls are) a big investment,” he said. “But we clearly recognize that we’re going to have to add an additional number of beds before next year.”

  • Sexual misconduct: Martin said A&T has put in place most of the recommendations of the university’s new Sexual Assault Committee. Among them are a new full-time investigator to look into student complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, a new sexual-misconduct hearing process and faster disclosure of the results of student hearings.

Martin said all employees received training in the spring so they can better handle student complaints of sexual misconduct. A&T police officers will get additional training this fall to help them respond to reports of sexual assault.

Martin formed the committee of students, faculty and staff in February after a freshman cheerleader said her coaches failed to report her sexual assault to proper A&T authorities. The two cheerleading coaches later resigned. Martin declined to say Wednesday how that student’s case was resolved.

He said the committee found that A&T employees didn’t always report incidents promptly and that students often thought the university took too long to investigate sexual-misconduct reports and was slow to reveal the outcome of conduct hearings.

He said the changes are intended to make the reporting process more fair, open and timely.

  • Enrollment: Martin said A&T expects to start the fall semester with about 12,450 students, a record. That’s about 2% more than last year. It wants to have 14,000 students on campus by 2023.
  • Fundraising: A&T is about $1 million away from meeting its $85 million fundraising goal announced in November.

The campaign will continue for another year and a half. Martin said the university is on pace to raise at least $100 million by the end of 2020 for scholarships, academic programs, faculty members and campus facilities.