State Politics

Immigration bill heads to Gov. Pat McCrory

Immigration activists chant behind a cardboard coffin on the front steps of the Attorney General's office at in 2014. Legislation approved in the state House would ban local governments from refusing to enforce immigration laws.
Immigration activists chant behind a cardboard coffin on the front steps of the Attorney General's office at in 2014. Legislation approved in the state House would ban local governments from refusing to enforce immigration laws. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The state House voted 70-43 Tuesday night to restrict forms of ID for non-citizens and ban counties and municipalities from having “sanctuary city” policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws. The bill will be sent to the governor.

Supporters of the measure say local governments shouldn’t get to opt out of federal laws.

Asked the objective of the bill, sponsor Rep. George Cleveland, a Jacksonville Republican, said it’s to address the issue of “illegal aliens.”

Accepting IDs issued by consulates and local governments and making non-citizens eligible for services leads to “a sense of belonging here” and “making them part of your community,” Cleveland said. “They have broken our laws and you are saying that’s OK.”

State senators have pointed to several “sanctuary cities” in North Carolina, including Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham.

Local governments would be banned from preventing their law enforcement officers from asking about a suspect’s immigration status. They also couldn’t stop law enforcement from sharing immigration information with federal authorities.

The immigration provision is part of a larger “Protect North Carolina Workers Act” (House Bill 318) that also would require state and local government agencies to hire only contractors that follow E-Verify laws to check workers’ immigration status.

The bill also establishes that ID cards issued by municipalities and counties or consular documents aren’t a valid form of identification.

Opponents argued that these forms of ID have helped police and eliminating them would be a public safety concern.

House Democrats objected to the bill and said immigrants add value to America.

“They are still human beings,” said Rep. Nathan Baskerville, a Henderson Democrat. “They are not aliens. Their identity was given to them by their creator, not by a government entity. I think we need to address the source of why people are coming. They are coming for opportunity, a chance, a better way of life.”

A final provision in the bill is unrelated to immigration. It would direct the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to stop issuing waivers exempting food stamp recipients from federal work requirements – meaning some recipients could lose their benefits.

“I don’t have a problem cutting off food stamps to able-bodied individuals,” Cleveland said.

Backers of that provision say it would push unemployed people on food stamps to look for work, but some Democrats said it would hurt the unemployed.

“What about the number of rural counties where there is high unemployment and jobs are minimal?” asked Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat.

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