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Petitioners ask Ward County to oppose illegal immigrants, support gun rights

Petitions oppose illegal immigrants, support gun rights

Jill Schramm/MDN Nicole Egeberg holds up a brochure in talking to the Ward County Commission Tuesday about the Second Amendment.

Ward County residents concerned about illegal immigration and threats to the Second Amendment petitioned the Ward County Commission Tuesday to take stands on the issues.

Commissioners voiced no objection to banning illegal immigration and supporting gun rights, which they pointed out are current law. Commission Chairman John Fjeldahl said he can support resolutions to that effect.

“Because we’re not asking for a change in the law; we’re asking for the law to be followed,” he said.

However, commissioners sought more specific resolution language than was included in petitions submitted by petition drive spokeswoman Nicole Egeberg. She estimated about 5,000 people signed the petitions.

Language on the petition gives support “to ban sanctuary cities, illegal immigrants, aliens, refugees in Ward County, North Dakota, and add Ward County, North Dakota, as a Second Amendment gun sanctuary county.”

Egeberg said the immigration issue on the southern border is relevant to Ward County.

“We have videos of them coming into our airport. It is of serious concern to many in this area,” Egeberg said. “If we don’t ban them, it’s going to cause pressure on us as taxpayers here in the county.”

Egeberg said the illegal drug, fentanyl, has significantly increased at the nation’s southern border. Undocumented aliens also stress the local law enforcement system, schools and tax dollars, she said.

“They have no respect for our laws, no respect for our border and it causes pressure. We have drug trafficking, human trafficking, sex trafficking, amongst many other things. We want them removed. We don’t want them brought here illegally. If they want to come here legally, appropriately vetted, they are more than welcome here in the county,” Egeberg said.

Commissioners questioned whether the county could enforce a ban on illegal immigrants or a gun sanctuary designation because both are federal issues. They also questioned whether a resolution would change current practice regarding the handling of illegal immigrants.

Ward County Sheriff Robert Roed said his department’s authority is limited to turning over any undocumented aliens to the U.S. Border Patrol.

“We have no control over what the Border Patrol does,” he said. He said the Border Patrol focuses its actions on illegal immigrants with felonies.

He said that although his department hasn’t noted an increase in encounters with undocumented individuals in the past year, he can support a county effort to prevent illegal immigration from becoming a problem.

Asked about local problems, Egeberg said illegal immigrants have been viewed arriving at the Minot airport, identified by their bags and tags on those bags.

“They don’t know why they are here. They are just sent on a plane,” she said, suggesting Texas and the federal government are sending illegal immigrants detained at the border.

North Dakota has no official agency to accept immigrants.

In March, Sen. Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong, both R-ND, spoke out after The Washington Post reported the Biden Administration was considering transporting detained immigrants at the southern border to northern border states for processing. Cramer later stated that Homeland Security officials told him that no immigrants will be sent to North Dakota.

Commissioner Shelly Weppler said regardless of a resolution, Ward County opposes illegal immigration.

“We turn them over to the federal government, and the federal government needs to do their part,” she said.

Commissioner Jim Rostad said he has no qualms about taking the position that Ward County doesn’t support immigration without proper vetting.

“I just think it’s responsible to our community,” he said.

Commissioner Howard “Bucky” Anderson said he does not support cities that decline to turn illegal immigrants over to authorities.

“I don’t believe we have to take any action on that other than just to say that we agree with banning sanctuary cities,” Anderson said. However, he added, “The word ‘sanctuary’ and the Second Amendment means, in my opinion, that if somebody is violating a Second Amendment law, we would agree not to turn them over to ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), or a federal law enforcement agency that deals with Second Amendment violations. I’m not quite sure I want to jump into that just yet, especially at the county level.”

Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson also questioned the intent behind a gun sanctuary because of possible interpretations that could prohibit enforcement against people who illegally possess weapons, such as felons.

Egeberg said that is not the intent, but the commission sought more specific language before supporting a resolution. Roed and Larson were tasked with working with the petition group to draft an appropriate resolution to bring before the commission at its next meeting, July 20.

“If we’re going to adopt a resolution, we better make sure what we adopt has the proper language,” Fjeldahl said.

Egeberg said Ward would be the fifth North Dakota county to declare a gun sanctuary. In April, Gov. Doug Burgum signed a proclamation designating North Dakota as a Second Amendment Sanctuary State to reinforce the state’s support for the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

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