Score one for the Working class & Homeless Organizing Alliance (WHOA).
Representatives of WHOA demanded that the City Council turn down a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) of $250,000 from the Department of Justice because in the contract to accept the money there is a clause that stated the city wouldn’t interfere with sharing information regarding “citizenship or immigration status with federal agencies.”
And the City Council voted to turn down the grant.
The fact that this clause was in the 36-page agreement was brought to the attention of the City Council at the Jan. 7 meeting by a member of WHOA, who said that meant the Greensboro Police Department would have to cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Division of the Department of Homeland Security.
At that meeting the City Council couldn’t figure out if it had accepted the grant or not at the Dec. 17 meeting and decided to put it back on the agenda.
It’s possible that similar wording is in other federal grants the city receives, which could result in the City Council turning down more federal grants.
The vote to accept the grant was defeated on a 5-3 vote, with Councilmember Goldie Wells absent. Those voting against accepting the grant were Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmembers Sharon Hightower, Michelle Kennedy, Tammi Thurm and Yvonne Johnson. Those voting in favor of accepting the grant were Councilmembers Justin Outling, Nancy Hoffmann and Marikay Abuzuaiter.
Abuzuaiter noted that in past years much of the JAG money had been used to buy police cars, and that while opponents were expressing concern for the immigrant community, the number one request that she heard from the immigrant community was they wanted safe places to live.
Vaughan said that nobody on the City Council worked more with the immigrant and refugee community than Abuzuaiter, but that she could not support accepting the JAG money because, while the Greensboro Police Department (GPD) did not collect information on immigration status, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department did and she didn’t know what it did with that information.
Which raises another issue with the $250,000 grant. Of that money, $138,000 would have gone to the Greensboro Police Department, $61,000 to the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and $51,000 to the High Point Police Department.
Because Greensboro is the lead agency and the City Council turned down the grant, Guilford County and High Point won’t get their money either.
Outling said that the GPD didn’t collect the information and ICE didn’t ask the GPD for it. He said if that changed and ICE demanded immigration information from the GPD, the city could always return the money.
After the meeting, Vaughan said, “If we could apply for the money on our own, I would vote to accept it.” She said that she didn’t like being responsible for other jurisdictions.