Commentary

McCrory’s epic fail in immigration enforcement

McCrory_budget305-aGovernor Pat McCrory expressed a tough stance regarding immigration enforcement during a recent segment of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor (see Rob Schofield’s post below). Unfortunately, the Governor’s lack of understanding about how immigration enforcement actually works further muddies the waters for law enforcement in North Carolina, is confusing in light of his previous statements and sends precisely the wrong message at this important time in history.

To be clear, McCrory was talking to O’Reilly about the infamous HB 318, which prohibits local governments from adopting policies that bar or discourage their police agencies from gathering information about a person’s immigration status. Gov. McCrory stated there were five such jurisdictions in the state without mentioning, or possibly even knowing, that the policies in those cities were already rendered largely obsolete by the activation of the federal government’s “Secure Communities” program throughout the state, which required the sharing of fingerprints between the local law enforcement agency and immigration enforcement. The so-called sanctuary policies that existed before passage of HB 318 did little to protect those arrested (due to operation of Secure Communities), but they did a lot to foster trust with victims and witnesses of crime.

McCrory also claimed that the law will “unleash the handcuffs” from police officers who want to enforce the law. This is wrong. McCrory’s own interpretation of the new law released just last month stated that it “does not require law enforcement to collect” information about immigration status. What’s more, as Chief Lopez of the Durham Police Department has explained with respect to his own city, this law could actually hurt policing. McCrory’s mixed signals about the law’s execution seem likely to abet this process by helping to erode the trust needed between immigrant communities and the police.

In taking a strong stance against immigration, McCrory also sought to highlight the need for “teamwork” in public safety. But in any team, people play different positions. Just ask Carolina Panthers defensive star Luke Kuechly if he could or should try to take Cam Newton’s place at quarterback. It would make no more sense than it would for the SBI to start issuing parking citations.

The federal government’s message has always been consistent: immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility and such enforcement takes into consideration government resources, national security, and international relations. McCrory voiced a grudging understanding of the limited role of the state when it comes to the Syrian refugee crisis, yet he seems to ignore this obvious dichotomy when it comes to already immigrants living in our state.

Ultimately, McCrory’s various statements regarding North Carolina’s new law leave us with at least three negative takeaways:

First, by sending mixed signals, he make it difficult for people to decipher what the law does.

Second, he clearly signed a law that hurts law enforcement rather than helping it.

Third and most troubling, his rhetoric abandons who we are as a nation, straying from our moral duty to help those escaping persecution and poverty. Immigrants, regardless of status, contribute to the fabric of our communities and the state. History will judge the strength and character of our nation by how we treat those in need, and in time, McCrory’s abandonment of our core values will be deemed an epic fail.

[Editor’s note: Raul Pinto is a staff attorney in the Immigrant and Refugee Rights project at the North Carolina Justice Center.]

Commentary

Immigrants in NC: Is the current hostile atmosphere the new normal?

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.

Fortunately, there continue to be lots of opportunities for people who want to promote sane and humane policies toward immigrants to learn, educate and speak out. There will be another such event next Wednesday here in Raleigh at the final N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation of the year. Here are the details:

Immigrants in North Carolina: Where do things stand? Where do we go from here?

Featuring Patrick McHugh of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center and Raul Pinto of the N.C. Justice Center’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project

Click here to register

Read more

Commentary

NC: Driving immigrants into the shadows

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.

Commentary

North Carolina’s perpetually aggrieved governor

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.