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NC Budget and Tax Center

Immigrants are increasingly important to North Carolina’s long-term economic vitality. The smokescreen of rhetoric surrounding immigration can obscure facts on the ground, but that makes it all the more important to take a sober look at the actual evidence. As documented in a recent Budget & Tax Center report, immigrants bring needed skills and expertise, swell the ranks of Main Street entrepreneurs, help to reverse population decline in many rural parts of the state, and ultimately improve our communities.

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Comparing North Carolina counties with sizable immigrant populations to counties that have relatively new residents who were born outside of the United States provides perhaps the most compelling evidence that immigrants help communities to prosper. As shown in the table to the left, counties made up of more than 6% immigrants fare significantly better than counties where the immigrant population is less than 3%.

By allowing hard fact to scrub the political air, it is clear that immigrants help communities across North Carolina to prosper. On average, communities with substantial immigrant populations have lower unemployment rates and levels of poverty, and higher wages than communities with few immigrants. This trend also holds when you look at rural counties, evidence that immigrants help communities large and small.

This kind of evidence has more and more communities across the country extending a helping hand to immigrants. Cities like St. Louis, Detroit, and Charlotte, just to name a few, recognize that immigrants will play a huge role in their economic prospects going forward. Immigrants have always been part of America’s economic foundation. Our future economic vitality will depend on how well we build upon that legacy.

Legislative Update

House Bill 328, sponsored by Representative Harry Warren (Republican, Rowan County) was recommended by the House Finance Committee earlier this week on a 22-11 vote. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants who pass a criminal background check to receive a temporary driver’s license in North Carolina. The bill received bi-partisan support, but has an uncertain future. It is not clear when, or if, the bill will be debated by the full House. Governor McCrory has said that he opposes the bill and it is unclear how it would be received in the Senate. Still, the Finance vote is the second favorable vote in a House committee and the bill has support from a variety of constituencies.

For more on the Finance Committee vote, visit

 

News

Republican state legislators frustrated by a lack of progress on immigration reform on the federal level demonstrated Tuesday just how hard it can be to reach a compromise.

Members of the House Finance Committee were deeply divided over a provision in House Bill 328 that would offer a restricted drivers permit to undocumented immigrants who are willing to undergo a background check and be fingerprinted.

Rep. John Blust, R- Guilford, worried the bill would be an incentive for more immigrants to come to North Carolina.

Republican Rep. Bert Jones went a step further saying if immigrants were for the bill, that was all the proof he needed that committee members should oppose the measure.

Bill sponsor Rep. Harry, R-Rowan, was clearly frustrated by the direction of the debate telling his fellow Republicans:

“If you’ll step away from the politics of this for a minute, and look at the logic behind it, you’ll see this is the right thing to do,” explained Warren.

Warren says the Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act would help law enforcement, and ensure undocumented drivers actually carry insurance before getting behind the wheel.

Rep. Jones would not be persuaded:

“We should not be encouraging, should not be endorsing, should not be accepting illegal immigration in any way.”

For now, HB 382 remains in committee with the finance chair promising a vote at a future meeting.

To watch part of Tuesday’s debate, click below.

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News

From the New York Times:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Obama administration’s request to lift a hold on the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would have granted protection from deportation as well as work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

Two of three judges on a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, left in place an injunction by a federal district judge in Brownsville, Tex. The ruling comes in a lawsuit by 26 states against actions President Obama took in November. Many of the initiatives were scheduled to take effect this month.

The appeals court found that Texas and the other states did have sufficient legal grounds to bring the lawsuit and that the administration had not shown it would be harmed if the injunction remained in the place and the programs were further delayed.

News

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