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Just because you didn’t make it out to one of these immigration reform events on Sunday doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call your Representative and ask for some common-sense, fair and humane changes to our immigration laws.

Rev. Ginger Brasher-Cunningham of Pilgrim UCC leads the group in a prayer.  Photo by Ricky Leung

Rev. Ginger Brasher-Cunningham of Pilgrim UCC leads the group in a prayer. Photo by Ricky Leung

About 100 people of faith attended the Durham event, co-hosted by the N.C. Justice Center, the N.C. Council of Churches and the Centro Hispano.

“When our laws do not allow for freedom, IT IS OUR LAWS that must change,” N.C. Justice Center staff attorney Daniel Rearick told the crowd.

Rearick also pointed out the following facts:

–The Obama administration is deporting our friends and family members at the fastest rate in history

–The bipartisan bill that has passed the Senate would lead to $46 billion dollars to further militarize the border

–That even that bill is so strict that millions of undocumented immigrants might not qualify to become citizens

–That rather provide any real solution for these families, our House of Representatives has only pushed bills like the so called “SAFE Act” that would provide no answer and only ramp up deportations Read More

What would be the measure of success if HB 786, or the RECLAIM NC Act, went into effect?

If just one third of North Carolina’s undocumented population were to get a driving permit or ID under it, would those who are pushing for the driving privileges offered in this bill still be in favor of it?

As it’s written now, HB 786, or the RECLAIM NC Act, will likely exclude seasonal workers from getting a driver permit. It will exclude anyone who can’t prove they have lived here for at least a year and haven’t been here before April 1, 2013. And it will exclude anyone who can’t afford to front a year’s worth of insurance ahead of time.

And if anyone doubts that many undocumented immigrants will either choose to not get the permit or be unable to get it, just look at Utah.

Just over one third of the estimated 110,000 undocumented people in Utah have gotten their driving privilege, which has a more lenient six month residency requirement than North Carolina’s one year requirement, and Utah’s doesn’t exclude everyone who moved into the state after a certain date, as North Carolina’s proposal does.

Like the proposal in North Carolina, Utah’s permit must be renewed annually. In 2012, just under 37,000 people of the estimated 110,000 undocumented in Utah applied for the permits, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Even after subtracting Utah’s estimated 13,000 undocumented youth between ages 5 and 30 who would be eligible for the Obama designation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (which includes just about everyone who isn’t old enough to drive or folks who now can get a regular drivers license), we’re still at just 38 percent of Utah’s estimated undocumented immigrant population who has accessed these privileges.

Utah used to issue driver permits to undocumented immigrants that looked mostly like regular drivers licenses, but in 2010, after Arizona passed its infamous SB1070, Utah’s permit included language to make it clear the holder was in the country unlawfully. The permit also includes biometric information, like what North Carolina is proposing.

The driving privilege changes in Utah happened independent of Utah’s own omnibus anti-immigrant bill. That law has been stopped from going into effect with an injunction that still hasn’t been lifted.

If that law does go into effect, then Utah’s undocumented but legal drivers could likely become driving targets because the card is an admission of one’s status.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, the architect of Utah’s Arizona-style bill, acknowledged that “The driving privilege card will, in an ironic way, be absolute admission that you are subject to the provisions of this bill,” he said in the Deseret News in August, 2010.

In North Carolina, the Arizona bill and the driver permit are part of the same bill, and, as immigration lawyer Marty Rosenbluth of the NC Immigrants Rights Project wrote in an open letter to legislators, that same “ironic” admission of status could get a lot of people in trouble.

North Carolina’s version of the bill does say that holders of the restricted driving permit cannot be held for immigration reasons only. But it doesn’t stop people with the permit from being held on minor arrestable offenses that might lead to detection by ICE.

“With the restricted drivers permit, people who are carrying them will now have proof of their immigration status in their pocket,” Rosenbluth wrote, adding, ” For cases like my Jackson county cases where ICE was collaborating with local law enforcement, ICE will have now have all proof they need to complete their deportation.”

If, like in Utah, just one third of the undocumented population gets the driving permit, then the other two thirds can be held after a lawful stop for up to two hours to investigate immigration status. Those caught driving without a license can have their car seized and possibly forfeited unless they can produce an expired license.

Also, it’s unclear if  North Carolina’s HB 786 would allow the federal government to obtain the immigration information provided by drivers’ permit applicants from the state DMV. The information could also fall into the hands of an overzealous state employee or be inappropriately leaked, like what happened in Utah in 2010

Participants in community forums the Justice Center has organized have been very leery of sharing their sensitive immigration information with the DMV for these reasons.

Nowadays, though, it seems Utah’s chief architect of the omnibus bill is suffering from a hate hangover. Sandstrom, the former anti-immigrant zealot, has put a face to undocumented immigration and now wants Utah to repeal its Arizona copycat provisions.

This returns us to the question of who will think N.C.’s RECLAIM NC Act was a success. If Utah is any indication, even sponsors will have their regrets of proposing such a punitive and short-sighted measure.

The authors of RECLAIM NC say they want to ferret out the “hardened criminals” from the “good” undocumented immigrants. HB 786 isn’t an effective way of doing that.  Immigration is too complicated for such a black and white approach.

North Carolina can do better.

Colorado joined a growing number of states (16 in total) yesterday in recognizing the importance of an affordable post-secondary education to all their residents, regardless of immigration status. The Governor signed legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from state high schools the ability to attend state colleges at the in-state tuition rate.

Meanwhile, a similar proposal in North Carolina is languishing in the Rules Committee, which means young people like Marco Cervantes can’t afford college.

Charging the same tuition rates to all residents is a great way to invest in our state and in our future workforce. The higher tuition rate often charged immigrants—in Colorado the out of state rate is three times in-state tuition—is a barrier for many students and a drain on the economy.  That is because it is increasingly necessary to have some kind of post-secondary degree to attain a family-sustaining job and secure middle-class status.

Today is a great day to call your state reps to voice support for HB 904 and in-state tuition equality. Also, sign the petition here.

As one of the bill sponsors in Colorado noted:  “in Colorado the doors are open and the dream is alive.”

Can North Carolina say the same thing?

Towed carHB 786, or the RECLAIM NC Act, should be called the “Repo” Act.

Most of the attention in the RECLAIM –er, Repo Act — has been focused on a provision that would provide a limited number of undocumented immigrants driver permits, or on the part cribbed from a racist Arizona bill that would allow law enforcement officers to arrest people they “suspect” might be undocumented immigrants.

One overlooked horror in this bill is Part X. This provision would impound and then sell at auction all the cars driven by anyone who is found guilty of driving without a license, whose insurance has lapsed and a few other similar violations.

Last fiscal year, more than 215,000 people were charged with one of those misdemeanors, according to statistics maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts. If “Repo” were law in 2012, all the vehicles these people had been driving would have been impounded. Read More