The best answer to the question in the headline above, of course, is “Let’s fervently hope not.” Unfortunately, recent events indicate that there’s reason for concern. As Professor Julie Weise of the University of Oregon made clear in an excellent column in Raleigh’s News & Observer last week critiquing Governor McCrory’s transformation since his days as Mayor of Charlotte, political opportunism is a pernicious drug for people in public office.
“Though the governor claims he has always supported legal immigration but not illegal, Charlotte’s economy thrived and his career benefited from policies that welcomed immigrant labor whatever its status. Under McCrory’s watch, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office instituted a policy to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for any reason, but the Charlotte Police Department declined to do so, preferring to retain the trust of the immigrant community – in other words, the very type of ‘sanctuary city’ policy McCrory has just outlawed. The welcome mat was out, the immigrants came with or without papers, and the city flourished economically.
Paradoxically, it was this very economic ‘revitalization’ of Charlotte, bolstered by Latinos, that allowed McCrory to nurture statewide ambition. Setting his sights on North Carolina’s Executive Mansion, McCrory turned his back on Latinos around 2005. That year, he appointed an Immigration Study Commission to provide political cover for his growing ambivalence on the issue, and by 2006 he was openly speaking out against Latino immigration.