The Herald Sun – Immigrant, refugee backers pack Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to affirm city as inclusive
The Herald-Sun | Bernard Thomas A large crowd during the “Durham, A City of Inclusion”, a public dialogue with public officials and hundreds of Latino, Muslim and Refugee immigrants who call Durham their home, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Pictured, from left front, are Durham Police Department Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, N.C. Rep. MaryAnn Black, D-Durham, and Annette Taylor, a representative of U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. Behind them are N.C. Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham and Durham County Board of Commissioners member James Hill.
A crowd estimated at about 1,300 listens to speakers Sunday at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Betty Brandt Rouse prays during Sunday’s immigration event at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Genesis Mejia reaches towards the sunlight during Sunday’s “Durham, A City of Inclusion” public dialogue with public officials and hundreds of Latinos, Muslims and other refugee immigrants who call Durham at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
The Herald-Sun | Bernard Thomas City and state officials during the “Durham, A City of Inclusion”, a public dialogue with public officials and hundreds of Latino, Muslim and Refugee immigrants who call Durham their home, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
The Herald-Sun | Bernard Thomas A large crowd stand during the “Durham, A City of Inclusion”, a public dialogue with public officials and hundreds of Latino, Muslim and Refugee immigrants who call Durham their home, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Immigrant, refugee backers pack Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to affirm city as inclusive
DURHAM — More than 1,300 Latinos, Muslims, refugees, immigrants, their families and supporters filled Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Sunday to affirm Durham as a city of inclusion.
The event, which organizers insisted was not a protest, was hosted by the N.C. Congress of Latino Organizations (NCCLO) and Durham Congregations Associations and Neighborhoods (Durham C.A.N) and conducted in both English and Spanish.
“We hope that as we leave here, we’re not going to be leaving with confusion but rather with hope,” said Banlly Baquedano, a representative of Iglesia Hispana Emanuel and mother of two.
The forum is on the heels of a Feb. 20 checkpoint set up near Durham’s School of Creative Studies.
Durham County Sheriff’s Office officials said the checkpoint was in response to speeding complaints not an attempt to trap immigrants. The following day the department announced appointment of Capt. Raheem Aleem — a Spanish-speaking Muslim officer — as its new liaison to the Hispanic community.
Sheriff’s Maj. Paul Martin spoke on behalf of the department at Sunday’s event.
“Our main concern at the Durham County Sheriff’s Department is the fact that rumors will drive people deeper into the underground,” Martin said, citing concerns of slumlords and loan sharks taking advantage of fear.
Durham Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis said as a mother and resident, she is concerned about what is happening in the nation.
“Checkpoints in the city of Durham have been directed to cease and desist,” Davis said.
Organizers said the purpose of Sunday’s gathering was to meet with decision makers representing Durham’s law enforcement agencies, city, county and school leaders to clarify the way authorities will interact with immigrants in the face of “federal pressure” to deport or criminalize them.
The message of Sunday’s forum was similar to one held in late February at St. Thomas More Catholic Church with police chiefs from Chapel Hill and Carrboro, that despite President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order that barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and suspends entry of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, there have not been local Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.
“We’re here as a reaction to the fact that the highest office in this nation is openly hostile in pursuing a campaign against nearly all people, that one sliver of this mission targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees whether we came by way of South America or East Africa, paperless or duty free seeks to erode our humanity on the basis of status,” said Sijal Nasralla, the first U.S.-born, Southern raised member of his refugee family and representative of Church World Services.
Accountability, Nasralla said, is knowing “asylum is achievable” and the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency “in schools should be absolutely inconceivable.”
Bert L’Homme, Durham Public Schools superintendent, said DPS is not providing confidential student information to ICE. He affirmed that DPS is open to all.
Wendy Jacobs, Durham County Commissioners chairwoman, agreed with L’Homme.
Speaking in Spanish, City Councilman Steve Schewel said the Faith ID, an unofficial alternative ID promoted by Durham-based El Centro Hispano (The Hispanic Center) that requires proof of identification and address, is acceptable in Durham.
“Querio ustedes familia prospero aqui,” Schewel said — translated to mean he wants families to prosper in the city.
Those in attendance were connected with information about “Know Your Rights” workshops, immigration clinics.
The next two are scheduled from 3 to 4:30 p.m. March 12 and April 9 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 810 W. Chapel Hill St.
Free legal services for power of attorney will be available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 25 and April 22 at the church.
Photo Illustration by Maxine Mills and Skillet Gilmore
A mixed-use, mixed-income housing project next to the Durham Station Transportation Center is moving forward—though it’s unclear how exactly the developers will be able to meet all of the city’s goals and still make the development viable. On Thursday, the Durham City Council voted to move ahead with DHIC Inc. and Self-Help Ventures’ proposal, the only one the city received for the project.
In September 2015 the city decided the site should be used for a mix of commercial and housing units, with 80 percent of the apartments set aside for tenants earning less than 60 percent of Durham’s median income, $52,106. It then sought proposals from qualified developers to make that happen.
The next step will be for Self-Help, DHIC, and architect Klein Design Associates to develop some options for how the property will look, from the number of apartments to where parking will be located. There is no concrete timetable at this point, says deputy city manager Keith Chadwell, although the city is aiming to have a design completed in time to apply for low-income housing tax credits, applications for which are due in January 2018. How the project will be financed also depends on the final design, Chadwell says.
“I, for one, think the two things the city can bring to the issue of needing to provide affordable housing are funding and land,” council member Don Moffitt said during Thursday’s meeting. “This is a very valuable piece of land, and I think it should be used to further those goals.”
The proposal from Self-Help and DHIC received just 39.5 out of 100 possible points on a city scoring matrix, but council members did not seem deterred by that. Points were lost mostly because of the developers’ inexperience with commercial spaces and the scope of their previous projects. DHIC operates thirty-nine affordable housing communities, but nothing approaching this size.
City staff sought some expert opinions on why there weren’t more proposals from developers.
“As the [request for qualifications] was forwarded to the top 50 affordable housing developers in the United States … staff anticipated more than one response to the RFQ,” a city memo says. “As a result, [Department of Community Development] staff reached out to members of the affordable development community in an effort to determine why there was only minimal interest.”
Three developers and city staffers, according to the memo, found several obstacles to completing the project, mostly dealing with conflicts between the demands of market-rate housing and the requirements of subsidized housing. For one, the project is “not consistent with typical tax credit applications submitted to the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.” Retail isn’t normally included in affordable housing projects. Ditto for parking structures. And without amenities, like a pool, market-rate renters may not buy in to the arrangement. Lastly, the wonky shape of the lot and noise and other environmental factors from the adjacent transportation center could make the project costly.
Natalie Britt, vice president of real estate development from DHIC, acknowledged that meeting all of the city’s goals will be a challenge. “We’ve done some pretty complicated projects,” she said. “ … We feel like this is something that’s really important to us because we are locally based and we’d love to do it, but it’s going to be complicated.”
“Members of Durham CAN have been involved with this project since its inception,” the Reverend Herb Davis, cochair of Durham CAN, said in a statement. “We have flexed our people’s muscle multiple times to ensure downtown Durham is diverse and affordable to families. It is only logical we weigh in one more time, and offer our position on the alternatives to be discussed.”
The city already has one example of mixed-income housing as part of the Southside Revitalization Project. That development currently does not have commercial space but is set up to have it in the future, says city manager Thomas Bonfield.
Self-Help Ventures Fund is part of the Self-Help Credit Union, which lends to individuals, businesses and nonprofits and has “developed and invested $144 million in commercial real estate projects to invigorate downtown areas and neighborhoods” and “created affordable housing for 228 families,” according to its website.