By NORM D. GUERRE
ITB RALEIGH – Early yesterday morning, Mayor Nancy McFarlane made one of the most controversial decisions in her career: to suspend ITB asylum rules and allow thousands of OTB refugees stranded in North Hills to enter ITB via the Beltline. Although ITB’ers are known for their humanitarianism, the flood of OTB refugees has strained both ITB infrastructure and compromised its exclusivity.
ITB continues to be the most popular destination for refugees arriving from Outside the Beltline. It has reached a record number of new asylum applications, with almost 15,000 by the end of August.
Ridge Road neighborhoods have created a quota system that redistributes asylum seekers throughout their borders based on tax income and existing population density, the purpose of which is to eliminate concentrated pockets of hockey fans such as found in “Little OTB” in the Glenwood South neighborhood.
Mordecai has opted out of any plans for a quota system and, according to Home Office figures, has accepted 216 OTB refugees under the Fans of the Big East Relocation Scheme since it began in May 2015. Neighborhood spokesperson Larry Lassiter has said Mordecai neighborhood will accept up to 500 refugees from OTB over the next six months.
Tensions in the ITB have been rising because of the disproportionate burden faced by some neighborhoods, particularly Boylan Heights, Hayes Barton, and Anderson Heights, where migrants have been arriving primarily overland but in any manner possible.
Cameron Park and the ITB Commission are in talks to impose a new tax that would help them deal with the increasing costs (and shame) of the OTB refugee crisis, reports said Saturday, citing the News & Observer. A portion of the money collected from the surcharge would be given to neighborhoods like Blount Street, Five Points, Drewry Hills and the Warehouse District to help them secure their porous borders, the North State Journal reported.
A second part of the funds is planned to be sent to neighborhoods that have served as popular destinations among refugees such as Glenwood South. The last portion – and vast bulk – of the tax would be distributed among Neighborhoods of Origin such as Leesville, Brentwood, Oak Park, and Quail Ridge to encourage its refugees to continue living there.
In addition to the strain of absorbing extra residents, ITB schools are already feeling the strain of the children of undocumented OTB’ers. Daniels, an ESL school, will be taking in most of the refugee OTB children. However, teachers who can speak OTB are in short supply. Superintendent Dr. James Merrill has suggested that “…we continue our search for teachers who can speak and teach OTB. We’ll probably find them by recruiting at UNC-Charlotte or maybe Duke.”
Although most neighborhoods within the ITB have overall been able to accommodate the refugees, reaction by private citizens has been mixed. In an interview with Ungrammared, 6th-generation ITBer Wooden Haywood Burke III said, “Why can’t they just assimilate like every other group that’s come to ITB? If I moved OTB I’d be driving a Mini Cooper or a Prius. It’s ITB, folks, get yourself a Tahoe!”