The Charlotte Observer editorial page does a good job today of explaining how our broken immigration system sets up good people for suffering and exploitation. As an editorial entitled “When undocumented workers are prey” explains, a woman is in jail today in North Carolina because she reported, accurately, that her employer was cheating her out of wages earned.

The woman in question, of course, was the subject of a weekend story in Raleigh’s News & Observer. As that story explained, the woman, Miriam Solais, is a one of many thousands of immigrants who entered the U.S. without authorization and then, in keeping with the country’s “nod and wink” employment system, obtained a false Social Security card. Here’s the Observer:

“It’s the type of scenario that immigration advocates have warned about for years. But it’s more than just small businesses paying poor wages under the table. Larger employers like poultry plants are notorious for an abusive culture that exploits a primarily Latino workforce. Criminals prey on Latinos who they know are reluctant to report crimes.

All of which endangers not just undocumented immigrants, but their families. The state’s answer to this? Laws that further push these families to the margins, including the newly minted ‘Protect North Carolina Workers Act,’ which bans sanctuary cities and jeopardizes children’s access to critical services by restricting their parents’ use of a common ID that foreign consulates issue.

That provision, signed into law last month by Gov. Pat McCrory, could block tens of thousands of U.S.-born children – who are U.S. citizens – from getting birth certificates or being enrolled in schools, the advocacy group NC Child said Monday.

The solution, as always, lies in Washington, but conservative Republicans continue to block reasonable immigration reform that would offer undocumented immigrants a chance to obtain legal status while continuing to lead productive lives here. Instead, conservatives insist on the fantasy of deporting more than 10 million immigrants.

While that stalemate endures, immigrants remain in limbo and in danger. Yes, Miriam Martinez Solais broke the law, along with millions of others who crossed the U.S. border. But she shouldn’t be left vulnerable to other lawbreakers – and to the broken immigration system that enables them.”

The editorial is right that the solution lies in Washington, but until that happens, there are steps we can and should take at the state and local levels that would make things much better. A new report today from the Center for American Progress (“Providing Identification to Unauthorized Immigrants”)  lists some of those steps. Unfortunately, as the editorial notes, for now, North Carolina is headed in precisely the wrong direction. And with the current hysteria being stirred up by politicians of both parties, things figure to get worse before they get better.


Pat McCrory 4There have been a lot of troubling and ultimately destructive things about the governorship of Pat McCrory — perhaps most notably his willingness to approve or roll over in the face of any hard right, ideologically-driven proposal the General Assembly can concoct.

If there’s a most aggravating thing, however, it has to be his posture as a perpetually aggrieved man.

Pick an issue — almost any issue — and you’ll find a moment in which McCrory is complaining that the media or other public figures “don’t understand the facts” or trying to manufacture an ex post facto explanation of something he’s done and for which he is being criticized.

This week has already brought us at least two more examples of this tiresome phenomenon.

First, of course, have been the Guv’s unconvincing attempts to explain away the damning McClatchy story about his intervention on behalf of a prison contractor who also happened to be a friend and big campaign contributor. As Raleigh’s N&O explained in detail yesterday, McCrory’s explanation/attack on the reporters who broke the story comes up woefully short.

Now, this morning, there’s word that the Governor has launched a similar effort vis a vis the critics of his new anti-immigrant law. The Greensboro News & Record reports that McCrory sent a “damage control” email to immigrant advocates in which he tried to lecture them about what the new law does and doesn’t do. This is from the N&R article:

“Mayor Nancy Vaughan said the letter seemed confusing and condescending.

‘But I think the fact that they sent the letter at all shows that it was good that the City Council voted to oppose the bill,’ Vaughan said. ‘Obviously, our opposing it drew attention to the problems with the law and now they’re trying to explain themselves.’”

Sometimes, one almost gets the impression that the Governor is trying to convince himself with these efforts. As with his repeated attacks on the Charlotte Observer (his hometown newspaper that endorsed him for Governor but that has been mostly critical on its editorial pages since he took office), it’s almost as if the Guv can’t believe that other people don’t still see him as the reasonable and moderate fellow he clearly thinks of himself as. Unfortunately, however, that’s what happens when you endorse and implement radical, far right policy proposals over and over.

A great irony in all this, of course, is that it’s an article of faith among modern American conservatives that it’s liberals who perpetuate a culture of “victimhood” in which various groups — women, minorities, gay men and lesbians — are somehow encouraged to feel victimized and seek “special protections.”

As Governor McCrory has repeatedly demonstrated, however, victimhood is a state that wealthy and powerful, middle aged white guys can readily embrace and revel in as well. Somewhere, Richard Nixon is probably nodding in approval.


In case you missed it, Dr. Silva Mathema of the Center for American Progress has authored a brief but scathing report of the new law targeting immigrants that Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to sign this afternoon in Greensboro. According to “North Carolina’s Dangerous Stance on Immigration Threatens Community Trust,” House Bill 318 has the potential to do enormous damage:

“The bill, known officially as the “Protect North Carolina Workers Act,” includes two provisions that would damage trust between the state’s extensive immigrant community and local government agencies, including law enforcement. H.B. 318 would prohibit North Carolina cities from passing community trust policies, known as sanctuary city ordinances, that seek to build trust by limiting local law enforcement’s cooperation with the federal government over civil immigration matters. The legislation would also prevent law enforcement and other government agencies from accepting identification cards issued by foreign governments, an option many law enforcement agencies use in their routine policing.”

The bill is, according to Mathema, of the same ilk as Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 of a few years back:

“The country has been down this road before and has seen the results of similar legislation in a number of states. In 2010, Arizona passed S.B. 1070, which authorized local law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status during routine policing and raised concerns over institutionalized racial profiling. As a result, Latino businesses began to leave the area, and trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community eroded. A 2010 report by the Center for American Progress estimated that Arizona lost at least $141 million in revenue from conference cancellations in the first year alone. The Supreme Court struck down much of S.B. 1070 in 2012, and lower courts have followed suit by striking down similar laws in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah.

Although distinct from S.B. 1070, North Carolina’s H.B. 318 poses similar dangers, including having a chilling effect on immigrants and their loved ones. Local law enforcement officials rely on all residents for information to solve crimes; policies that weaken this relationship dissuade individuals from cooperating and ultimately make law enforcement more difficult. Given North Carolina’s history of active participation in programs that entangle local law enforcement in efforts to enforce federal immigration law, the state’s immigrant communities know all too well the harmful impact that these policies can have on their communities. Local government and law enforcement agencies have spent many years building positive relationships within the growing immigrant community; H.B. 318 would severely undermine these efforts.”

Dr. Mathema’s bottom line analysis: Read More


McCrory budgetThe word on the street is that Gov. Pat McCrory will put an exclamation point on a dreadful year of state lawmaking today by signing the controversial bill advanced in the waning days of the 2015 session that targets immigrants and recipients of food assistance. The Governor has announced that he will conduct a bill signing ceremony at 2:30 at the Guilford County Sheriff’s office and the expectation is that he will sign House Bill 318.

This is from the October 2 edition of the Fitzsimon File:

“And while he has the veto stamp out, he should also use on it House Bill 318 that passed in the legislative session’s waning days that would punish undocumented immigrants in the state and make it harder for thousands of families to afford enough to eat.

A letter from N.C. Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier asking McCrory to veto the bill points out that it takes authority away from how local communities interact with immigrants and gives local law enforcement agencies less flexibility.  McCrory, as a long time mayor, ought to understand that.

And as Glazier wrote to the governor, the bill was passed with disturbing anti-immigrant rhetoric in the debate on the House floor, where bill supporters described North Carolina being ‘overrun by illegal immigrants.’

The bill also punishes low-income families by banning the state from continuing to apply for waivers from the federal government that allow people in economic distressed parts of the state to receive food stamp benefits.

The bill would result in 100,000 people being denied food assistance next year, regardless of the economic conditions in their communities.”

Sadly, however, it appears common sense explanations like this and the pleas of thousands who have protested the bill have gone for naught. Unless the Governor is somehow overtaken by a last minute wave of human decency and compassion, North Carolina will add two more areas to the list in which it is home to some of the nation’s worst and most heartless state laws. All in all, it’s an apt way to close the legislative year.

Commentary, News

johnson_terryAny notion that Alamance County’s anti-immigrant crusading sheriff Terry Johnson (pictured at left) would be at all chastened as a result of being sued by the federal government for unlawfully targeting Latinos has been quashed in recent days. On Monday, the Alamance County Board of Commissioners approved without debate a request submitted by Johnson to send four of his officers to Texas at taxpayer expense for a “Sheriff Border Summit” sponsored by the notorious anti-immigrant group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

As the watchdogs at the Southern Poverty Law Center document here, FAIR is an anti-immigrant advocacy  group that maintains a “veneer of legitimacy” at the same time that “its leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements.”

Click here and scroll down to page 7 to see a flyer describing the event, which looks as if it will feature a who’s who of anti-immigrant zealots. This is from the flyer:

“Join Sheriffs from around the nation for the 3rd Annual Border Summit, and education and training event created specifically for Sheriffs.

Hear from top experts in the field of:
Drug Cartels
Narco Culture and Occult
National Security
Transnational Gangs
The training will include a tour of the Texas-Mexico Border meeting with Texas Border Volunteers and Texas Bar B Q at the Vicker Ranch”

Johnson’s request is that Alamance County taxpayers pay “Approx. $2,570” for four individuals from his office to travel to Texas next month to attend the event. Somewhat strangely, Johnson’s request seeks approval for the men to travel to El Paso, Texas, but the flyer attached to the request says that the event will be in the city of McAllen, which is 800 miles east of El Paso. Sounds like quite a road trip could be in the offing.

According to the Associated Press, one of the men slated to attend the event, Richard Longamore, once “forwarded an email to the sheriff and his chief deputy bemoaning a federal program that provides temporary visas to foreign nationals who are the victims of such violent crimes as rape, incest and torture.”

Johnson was, of course, has long been a controversial figure in North Carolina and one of the state’s most outspoken public officials on the matter of  immigration. He was sued by the United State Department of Justice for unlawfully targeting Latino residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, seizures, and other enforcement actions. Last month, a federal judge in Winston-Salem dismissed the lawsuit, but advocates remain hopeful that the Department of Justice will appeal the ruling.

This is from a statement issued by the ACLU of North Carolina in response to the judge’s decision: Read More