House Bill 786, the “RECLAIM NC” Act, will be up for a vote soon on the NC House floor. In spite of the restricted driving permit that could be offered to some immigrants, it is on balance a bill that will be harmful to the immigrant community in North Carolina, and will increase racial profiling even among US citizens. In the midst of so much going on at the General Assembly, this sweeping immigration legislation has not received the attention and scrutiny it deserves.
In community forums about the bill’s provisions around the state — Hendersonville, Raeford, Charlotte, Durham, Greenville, and Wilson so far — advocates have seen that there are a variety of opinions on the bill, but that once immigrant families understood the many negative provisions in the bill and the difficulty of obtaining a “restricted driving permit” under HB 786, they did not support the bill.
Beyond being costly, increasing incarceration of immigrants, and eroding civil liberties for all North Carolinians, there are six specific reasons I believe that legislators should vote AGAINST HB 786:
- The bill creates a registry of undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants are required to get the restricted driving permit or ID and carry it with them at all times. All those who cannot afford it, do not qualify for it, or cannot provide enough proof to a DMV official to get the registry card can have his or her car seized as well as be detained to check one’s immigration status.
- The Arizona “show me your papers” provision of the bill essentially requires that every North Carolinian (US Citizens included) carry photo ID at all times. The bill allows law enforcement to detain any person it suspects might be in the country illegally in order to verify their immigration status. The only surefire way to avoid this harassment –particularly for people of color– is to carry a state-issued ID.
- The “restricted driving permit” will be hard to get. The bill requires that an applicant buy one year’s worth of insurance ahead of time which may cost more than $1,000, plus submit to a criminal check and be able to provide written proof to a DMV official that one has lived in North Carolina for a year and that one arrived before April 1, 2013. Finding sufficient proof will be difficult for people without credit or a Social Security Card.
- The bill would allow thousands of cars to be seized by the government. Last fiscal year, the courts processed more than 215,000 cases of No Operators License, Operating a Vehicle with No Insurance or Permitting the Operation of a Vehicle with No Insurance. HB786 requires that those cars be seized until proof of either a license, driving permit or proof of insurance is presented to the court.
- It will clog the courts and the jails. Aside from wasting limited resources on processing hundreds of thousands of car seizures, the bill makes it much harder for magistrates to grant bond to undocumented immigrants for certain offenses, and law enforcement will be able to jail anyone suspected of being undocumented. The increased arrests and limited ability to release immigrants on bond will carry an enormous cost for local county budgets.
- The “restricted driving permit” does NOT “save” North Carolina immigrants from deportation or all punitive provisions of this bill. Those who obtain the restricted driving permit will be carrying proof of their undocumented status in their wallet. Under this bill, even with the permit, they can STILL be detained on minor charges, denied bond as part of this bill, and processed through ICE’s “Secure Communities” program, which will lead to federal detention and deportation.
For these reasons, the NC Justice Center opposes HB 786. It’s expensive, punitive and has the potential to create a police state.