Legal problems resulting from the malicious prosecution of the three Duke lacrosse players last year may soon be the least of Durham’s problems. The naive and embarrassing vote by the City Council four years ago to declare Durham a “sanctuary city” may soon come back to haunt the Bull City. Sanctuary cities, those that have chosen to ignore federal laws and allow illegal immigrants a pass, are a magnet that draws illegals. North Carolina has several cities whose misguided leaders have chosen this route (Durham, Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Carrboro). This willful flouting of the law by elected officials has not gone unnoticed. There is talk of withholding federal funds for sanctuary cities, and Michael Chertoff, director of Homeland Security, made clear yesterday that the feds are fed up with scofflaw cities:

“I certainly wouldn’t tolerate interference” by cities who attempt to block the program.

“We’re exploring our legal options,” Mr. Chertoff said. “I intend to take as vigorous legal action as the law allows to prevent that from happening, prevent that kind of interference.”

Last week I went to Durham’s City Hall to get documentation on its sanctuary city status. None of the clerks or employees had even heard of it, but a record search found that on Oct. 20, 2003, our esteemed City Council did vote 4-1 for the measure. Former Council Member John Best was the only member with enough sense to vote against it. The motion was made by Cora Cole-McFadden and seconded by Councilman Thomas Stith, who urged support for the resolution as a human rights issue. Mayor Bill Bell and Councilman Howard Clement joined them in supporting the measure. Members Tamra Edwards and Lewis Cheek were not present at the meeting.

If you want to read the resolution, here it is.