immigration

HB 319 would create needed tuition equity for immigrant youth

While many are celebrating graduation this time of the year, the future isn’t as bright for some graduates of North Carolina high schools because of a challenging landscape of immigration policy.

A recent study from the Migration Policy Institute reports roughly 100,000 undocumented youth will graduate from high schools across the country.  North Carolina ranks 5th, tied with Georgia, for the number of graduates from our states’ high schools who do not have documented immigration status. Those 3,000 young people represent in North Carolina roughly 3 percent of the total undocumented youth graduating each year nationwide. As the state considers how to attain critical targets in post-secondary attainment statewide, these graduates from N.C. high schools should be engaged in the conversation.

That is why proposals like House Bill 319, which would grant in-state tuition to immigrant youth if they attend any of the colleges within the University of North Carolina system or a North Carolina community college, are so important. To qualify for these benefits, eligible applicants must have graduated from a high school in North Carolina, attended at least two years of high school here, and apply for legal status as soon as they are eligible to do so.

Twenty-one states across the country have embraced this proposal for tuition equity. In so doing, states are building on their existing educational investment in K-12 and ensuring the greatest possibility for all young people’s success in the economic and civic life in our country.

The research is clear: Post-secondary education means better employment opportunities and higher wages, which translate into higher tax contributions. But post-secondary education is often out of reach due to high costs and the challenges of trying to complete it while balancing work and study that many young people without documents and from low-income families face.

Adopting this legislation would allow for young immigrants to fully realize their human and economic potential.

Find out more about the work to support educational attainment in the immigrant and Latinx community at https://juntos.dasa.ncsu.edu/ and www.adelantenc.org.

immigration, NC Budget and Tax Center

Report: Immigration enforcement by local governments in NC is costing taxpayers millions

North Carolina taxpayers are bearing the cost of federal immigration enforcement by local governments. A recent report estimates the statewide financial cost of honoring immigration detainers and holding immigrants in local jails is $7.4 million annually, resulting in a cumulative cost of roughly $80 million over the past decade.

These direct financial costs would continue and could increase as a result of House bill 370, which would require local law enforcement to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or face financial penalties of up to $25,5000 a day. The bill does not provide for any financial resources to cover the costs that local governments would incur, meaning that dollars would have to be taken from elsewhere or taxes would need to be raised.

ICE does not compensate local agencies for the additional costs associated in cooperating with immigration agents. This leaves local jurisdictions to cover the expenses of trainings required to participate in programs, personnel salaries, and transportation costs.

Across the country, states have documented the costs of such an unfunded shift in responsibility to local governments for enforcing federal immigration law. In Texas, the state’s corrections department reported ICE detainers cost local jails roughly $71 million statewide in 2017. Recent reports suggest ICE detainers have an average annual cost of $9 million in Georgia and $13 million in Colorado.

Partnering with ICE also has a track record of hurting community relations. As described in the report, the social costs of cooperating with immigration agents translates into community members mistrusting law enforcement and public institutions. It also has significant impacts on community cohesion, civic engagement, and the overall well-being of immigrants and citizens alike.

HB 370 has now been sent to the North Carolina Senate and it sits in the Rules Committee, where it could move at any time. For the stability of communities, safe delivery of policing services and overall community success, senators would do well to leave the proposal in committee for the rest of the 2019 session.

Lissette Guerrero is an intern with the Budget & Tax Center and Immigrant & Refugee Rights projects of the NC Justice Center.

Commentary, immigration

Anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric is costing NC sheriffs their seats across the state

In case you missed it, voters in several North Carolina counties sent a strong signal this year that they don’t want local law enforcement to do the dirty work of enforcing the Trump Administration’s immigration agenda. Sheriffs elected in several counties have pledged to stop honoring immigration detainers and declared an end the controversial 287(g) program, which essentially makes local officers extensions of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

One anti-immigrant policy emerged as an important factor for voters in several sheriff races. The 287(g) program allows a local law enforcement agency to deputize some of their officers to act as immigration agents and to hand undocumented constituents over to ICE, even in circumstances when there has not been a conviction. This policy undermines trust between law enforcement and the community, which can result in less crime being reported due to a fear of deportation.

Voters in Mecklenburg County delivered a rebuke to the 287(g) program as Garry McFadden won over incumbent sheriff Irwin Carmichael, who defended the use of the anti-immigrant policy. During his time as sheriff, Carmichael re-signed the county’s 287(g) agreement and the total number of people processed for deportation through the program reached over 15,000. McFadden announced the end of the program this week.

In Wake County, Gerald Baker unseated longtime sheriff Donnie Harrison, who was running for his fifth term in office. Under Harrison’s leadership, Wake County became one of six counties in the state to participate in the 287(g) program. Harrison had been strongly criticized for choosing to participate in the 287(g) program that separates families and increases racial tensions in the community. In stark contrast, Sheriff-elect Baker pledged to end the partnership with ICE as soon as he takes office, a stance that clearly resonated with voters in Wake County.

Durham County saw a similar outcome in the primary race for sheriff as Clarence Birkhead ousted Mike Andrews. Birkhead, the first black sheriff of Durham County, pledged his office will not honor immigration detainers, which are requests to hold a detainee for up to 48 hours beyond the time they would have otherwise been released. ICE detainers requests are not obligatory and sheriffs have the option to honor or ignore an immigration detainer. Earlier this year, Andrews chose to publicly reject a request by community members to stop honoring ICE detainers. During Andrew’s time as a sheriff, Durham County honored thousands of ICE detainers.

Collectively, these results signal North Carolinians’ growing opposition to aggressive immigration enforcement policies emanating from Washington, and a refusal to see their local law enforcement used as pawns for the Trump Administration’s agenda.

immigration, NC Budget and Tax Center

Trump’s public charge is a new threat to immigrant families

The Trump administration is once again attempting to restructure a longstanding policy in U.S. immigration law. Last week, the administration published a proposed change to the public charge rule in the Federal Register, setting off a period of public comment.

Under the proposed change, an individual deemed a public charge may be disqualified from adjusting their status to a green card or obtaining certain visas. The changes will place greater emphasis on income and penalize people for accessing programs that they are eligible for to help them make ends meet.

Following a track record of putting money over people, this Administration seeks to punish low-income working people and families. Under the proposed rule, a public charge assessment will consider federal public benefits such as SNAP (also known as “food stamps”), non-emergency Medicaid, Medicare Part D, and housing assistance. Since the assessment measures the totality of circumstances, other factors considered are age, ability to work, health history, education, and financial status.

The proposed rule will not impact immigrants residing in the country due to humanitarian reasons such as refugees, asylum-seekers, domestic violence and human trafficking survivors. It will also not consider benefits received by U.S. citizen children. Read more

immigration, NC Budget and Tax Center, Trump Administration

Trump administration sets a historically low ceiling for refugee admissions

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the maximum number of refugee admissions for the next fiscal year has been set at 30,000. Breaking even last year’s historic low, this ceiling cap sets a new low and further restricts humanitarian aid to a growing number of displaced people seeking safety from violence and persecution. This announcement is part of a series of efforts from the current Administration that seek to undermine the Refugee Resettlement Program and to create new roadblocks to many of the world’s most vulnerable who are attempting to flee serious persecution to start a new life in the United States.

Historically, the United States had demonstrated a strong commitment to refugee resettlement by successfully integrating refugees into communities across the country. This commitment resulted in strong contributions to the national economy and labor market. In 2015, refugees across the United States contributed $20.9 billion in state and federal taxes. This same year, refugees in North Carolina contributed almost $274 million in federal and state taxes while holding $831 million in spending power. These numbers demonstrate a glimpse of the positive impact immigrants have in local communities across the country.

Still, the current administration continues its devastating battle against immigrants. From incorporating a ban on refugee admissions and threatening programs such as DACA to gutting long-standing principles of asylum law and expanding family detention, this administration has weakened refugee and humanitarian policies, pulling the United States back from its historical commitment to strengthen human rights. In a time where 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by conflict and the number of refugees has reached 25.4 million, it is inexcusable to disregard the current humanitarian crisis and turn our back on vulnerable people living in danger.

Unfortunately, the real decline in refugee resettlement may be even more dramatic than the lower cap would indicate. The annual ceiling sets the maximum number of refugees allowed to legally enter the United States, but it does not require the country to accept a specific number of refugees. In the 2018 fiscal year, the United States had a historically low admittance cap set at 45,000, but it actually accepted less than 22,000 refugees. These figures demonstrate a strong likelihood of refugee admittance falling below the 30,000 cap during the coming 2019 fiscal year.

In a country whose moral and economic strength is rooted in welcoming people searching for a better life, these policy reversals should be seen for what they are: a violation of our history and a threat to our future.

Lissette Guerrero is an intern with the Budget & Tax Center and with Immigrant Refugee Rights, projects of the NC Justice Center.