A North Carolina House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the “RECLAIM NC” Act today, an Arizona-style immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Harry Warren and 13 others (including a key member of Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team, Rep. Ruth Samuelson). The proposal includes a raft of anti-immigrant provisions, including making it harder for undocumented immigrants to post bond for minor criminal offenses, requiring them to pay for their own incarceration time, and making it easy to seize and impound cars of people caught driving without insurance or a proper license.
The bill also includes the odd and controversial twist of “requiring” all undocumented immigrants to register for a “restricted driving permit,” which would not the same thing as a driver’s license. Representative Warren claims that the driver’s permit requirement is intended to make all drivers safer by identifying folks who are driving on state roads. This claim is belied, however, by the fact that bill: a) requires undocumented immigrants to register for a state ID card even if they have no intention of driving at all, and b) excludes many people from obtaining the driving permit at all.
Probably the most telling moment of this morning’s hearing was when the committee discussed the “show me your papers” provision, and Representative Rick Glazier asked Warren how a law enforcement officer could form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone was in the country without papers. Watch the exchange here:
As you can see, Representative Warren acknowledged there is simply no good way to know who might be undocumented. As a practical matter, this means that a law enforcement officer would have two choices: 1) use assumptions and stereotypes to guess that someone might be undocumented based on their race, skin color, accent, or ability to speak English, or 2) not use the illegal process of racially profiling people and have absolutely no way at all to know whether someone might be undocumented or not.
Representative Warren said many times in today’s hearing that his bill is about going after “hardened criminals.” If that’s so, however, why make it harder for people to post bond if they’ve been arrested for speeding? Why deny a driving permit to those who have committed one offense, which could be as minor as a 1990’s public intoxication charge? Why have a provision refusing to accept people’s valid, government-issued foreign ID card, or requiring them to pay towing charges after their car is seized, even if they are found not guilty?
Though Rep. Warren and others claim this is a balanced bill about targeting serious criminals, the rhetoric and the reality of the bill simply don’t match up. The bill is filled with punitive provisions aimed at immigrants and immigrants only, regardless of whether they’ve ever committed any crime at all.
The bottom line: If the General Assembly wants to pass an anti-immigrant bill, let them at least have the courage to call it what it is.