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On a voice vote, members of the House Judiciary I committee gave the first approval Wednesday to a piece of legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a one-year restricted driving permit.

Rep. Harry Warren of  Rowan County says the legislation has nothing to do with immigration, and would establish a more uniform system of ID cards for the law enforcement community.

Critics said House Bill 328 (the Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act) is a step toward amnesty, warning lawmakers that constituents would voice their opposition in the next election cycle.

Fred Baggett with the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police spoke in favor of the bill noting that a standard form of identification would be useful to officers statewide.

The bill would need the approval of the House Finance Committee before heading to the House floor.

To learn about other restrictions and what it takes to actually obtain 12-month permit, read HB 328. To listen to some of Wednesday’s committee meeting, click on the video below.

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Commentary

There are new numbers out out today that confirm the remarkable, ongoing and encouraging growth of North Carolina’s immigrant population. As the American Immigration Council reports:

“Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for growing shares of the economy and population in the electoral swing state of North Carolina. Immigrants (the foreign-born) make up 7.6% of the state’s population, while more than one in 10 North Carolinians are Latino or Asian. Moreover, Latinos and Asians wield $25.7 billion in consumer purchasing power. At last count, businesses owned by Latinos and Asians had sales and receipts of $10.1 billion and employed more than 63,000 people. As the economy continues to grow, North Carolina can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.”

The following infographic provides more details:

Immigrants infographic 2015

News

The Justice Department will seek an emergency order from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowing the federal government to move forward with the President’s immigration programs while it appeals a Texas federal judge’s ruling halting those programs, according to the New York Times.

The move follows on the heels of Monday’s late night ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen that the president failed to adhere to basic administrative procedures when issuing orders that would have provided sweeping relief to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

Here’s a quick timeline of what might happen next, courtesy of Vox:

  1. This is a relatively aggressive move by the administration. The court battle over the president’s executive actions will still take a long time, but the stay means that the next phase will happen very quickly.
  2. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will now have to consider the stay. Its ruling could come within days of the filing, but will likely take a few weeks.
  3. The 5th Circuit is one of the country’s most conservative appeals courts, making it more likely that they might side with the lower-court judge and keep the president’s new “deferred action” programs from going into effect.
  4. If that happens, the Obama administration would be expected to appeal to the Supreme Court.
  5. Ultimately, if the administration wins a stay, the deferred-action programs could start back up in only a few weeks.
  6. If the Supreme Court sides with the states, the programs will be frozen for a matter of months or years while the case makes its way through the courts at the usual pace.

 

 

News

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, saying that the president failed to adhere to basic administrative procedures when issuing orders that would have provided sweeping relief to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

The order, which came a little before midnight from U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, came as little surprise to many following the legal challenge to the president’s plan. Hanen, appointed to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush,  has been an outspoken critic of Obama’s immigration’s policies.

“The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country,” he wrote in his 123-page opinion. “Further, the record supports the finding that this lack of enforcement, combined with the country’s high rate of illegal immigration, significantly drains the states’ resources.”

As pointed out in the New York Times, the programs announced by the president in November would have offered three-year deportation deferrals and work permits to undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes, have been here at least five years and have children who are American citizens or legal residents.

The first of those programs was scheduled to open the application process on Wednesday.

In December, Texas and 25 other states, including North Carolina, filed suit opposing the programs, saying that they were adopted without adequate notice and provisions for comment and that they would impose huge burdens on state budgets.

But the state of Washington and 11 others, the District of Columbia, and the mayors of 33 cities including New York, Los Angeles and Brownsville — where the case was filed — supported the president’s actions, saying that they would benefit financially if undocumented workers obtained the relief offered.

In a statement released early this morning, the White House  said that the president had acted properly and consistent with decades of legal precedent.

“The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and the district court in Washington, D.C., have determined that the president’s actions are well within his legal authority,” the White House said. “The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, common sense policies from taking effect, and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.”

The case is expected to quickly ascend to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where many legal experts project Hanen’s order will be reversed on standing grounds.

“Federal supremacy with respect to immigration matters makes the states a kind of interloper in disputes between the president and Congress,” Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, told the New York Times. “They don’t have any right of their own.”

Read Hanen’s full decision here.

NC Budget and Tax Center

We are largely a nation of immigrants, and relatively recent ones at that. Waves of immigrants have come to the United States over the past several centuries, transforming the county from a colonial backwater to the wealthiest nation on the planet.  A report just out shows how important immigrant business owners are to communities across the country. As can be seen below, immigrants are over-represented as business owners, and it turns out they make up a particularly large share of main street proprietors.

Immigrant Percentage of Workforce and Business Ownership

The role that immigrants play as local business owners tends to be overshadowed in the policy debate surrounding immigration policy in the U.S.  Amidst the talk about border security, paths to citizenship, and human rights, we tend to overlook the fact that immigrants are vital to the economic backbone of the United States, small businesses. The Fiscal Policy Institute report shows that while immigrants make up 16% of the labor force, they own 28% of the main street businesses in the U.S. In many communities, immigrants make up a larger share of small businesses owners today than they did a decade ago, which is clearly shown in the graph below. Moreover, the report underscores how important immigrant businesses can be as early instruments of community revitalization, going into neighborhoods and communities when larger firms are still hesitant to invest.

Immigrant Business Ownership in Major Cities 2000 to 2013

Here are some of the other highlights from the report:

  • Immigrants are more important to metro small business communities than ten years ago. The report shows that the share of businesses owned by people born outside the United States has gone up in virtually every major metropolitan area in the country in the last 10-15 years. This includes both Charlotte and Raleigh, which saw marked jumps in immigrant small business ownership from 2000 to 2013.
  • Immigrants are particularly likely to own very small businesses. More than 80% of businesses owned by immigrants had ten or fewer employees, compared to just over 70% for native-born business owners. Many of these immigrant businesses are in main street service sectors, like laundries, barber shops, restaurants, groceries, and travel accommodation.
  • Immigrants are less likely to use a bank loan to start their businesses. Particularly on main street, native born business owners are more likely to get bank loans while immigrants are more likely to rely on personal savings. There are a host of reasons for this, but it is a point of concern. Access to capital is the lifeblood of small business, so if immigrants find it difficult to secure startup and operating capital, communities may lose businesses that are otherwise solid, or miss out of new businesses that never got off the ground.
  • Case studies in engaging immigrant business owners show the importance of public policies in supporting the success of these entrepreneurs. The report highlights economic revitalization efforts in Philadelphia, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Nashville that focus on the needs of immigrant business owners.

When you take a sober look at the economic data, its clear that immigrants are essential to the economic well-being of the United States. Whatever you think about recent Executive actions, or what needs to be done about immigration policy generally, this is not an issue that we can afford to ignore. Immigrants have always been part of the U.S. economic history and, if we want to remain one of the most dynamic economic markets in the world, immigrants will be at the heart of those future stories as well.