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

McCrory reverses course on refugees, gets in line with other GOP governors

In case you missed it yesterday, Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer authored a damning article about Gov. McCrory’s sudden reversal of course on Syrian refugees that took place on — what a surprise!– the same day several other Republican governors decided to stoke public fears about immigrants and attack the Obama administration.

As Batten points out, the McCrory administration was quite calm about the matter last Friday in response to a question about the refugees:

“’Prior to being given refugee status, an extensive security screening is conducted on each individual’ by the U.S. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies, McCrory’s office replied.”

Seventy-two hours later, however, the tune had changed:

“At a press conference in Charlotte on Monday, however, McCrory said the state has little knowledge of what those background checks entail and that they have “vulnerabilities.” Because of that, McCrory said, Syrian refugees are not welcome in this state.

McCrory joins at least eight other GOP governors who on Sunday and Monday said they would not willingly accept refugees until the federal government tightened its vetting to ensure terrorists are not admitted.

‘I am now requesting that the president and the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina until we are thoroughly satisfied with the effectiveness of the federal background checks and security checks on such refugees entering our country,’ McCrory said at a press conference in Charlotte.”

The bottom line: McCrory’s flip flop clearly smacks of partisan political fear mongering. As Batten points out, if the administration has genuine and specific concerns about the federal oversight of refugees, then it ought to speak up and articulate them right away. At yesterday’s press conference, however, McCrory couldn’t do anything other than offer vague criticisms that sounded suspiciously as if they had been designed to appeal to nativists in his conservative base.

The truth of the matter is that people don’t get to enter the United States as “refugees” until they’ve been thoroughly vetted by federal immigration officials. McCrory knows this. And the notion that the the feds should somehow stop accepting genuine refugees and/or set up some kind of system in which state law enforcement officials would monitor these poor souls (as McCrory implied) is as mean-spirited as it is wasteful and just plain silly.

Let’s hope caring and thinking North Carolinians of all political stripes speak up forcefully and often in the days ahead to make clear that their Governor does not speak for them on this core issue of justice and human rights.

Click here to read Batten’s entire article.

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina may turn its back on decades of progress on immigration

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which helped to make the United States into a more diverse and economically vibrant country. At the same time however, there is a bill (HB 318) sitting on Governor McCrory’s desk that would make it harder for immigrants to integrate into local communities, make police work more difficult, and hurt North Carolina’s reputation on the global stage.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 is one of the most important pieces of legislation in our nation’s history. The Act put immigrants from all countries of origin on equal footing, ending a quota system that essentially ensured most new immigrants came from Europe. This shift in policy allowed immigrants from around the world to realize the dream of joining the American experiment, and helped to fuel the last fifty years of economic growth in our country.

Graphic for Post - Immigrant Entrepreneurs Countries of Origin

Examining immigrant business owners’ countries of birth illustrates how opening immigration up to non-European counties has strengthened our economy. As the chart shows, immigrant proprietors have come to North Carolina from all over the world.

The immigrant business community is not just broad, it is deep as well. In North Carolina, immigrants make up less than 8% of the population, but own more than 20% of the main street businesses. In many communities, both rural and urban, immigrant entrepreneurs have helped to revitalize crumbling downtowns and neighborhoods. Read more

Commentary

Unintended consequences and more reasons for McCrory to veto House Bill 318

The Protect North Carolina Workers Act is one of the remaining piece of legislation on the governor’s desk, following the nine month session. And before deciding whether the bill should become law, Susan Ladd says Governor McCrory should consider the confusion this bill will create at the county level.

While HB 318 would impact food stamp recipients,the Greensboro News & Record columnist explains this bill would also negatively affect immigrants:

consularcard

Consular IDs would be banned under HB 318

Case in point: House Bill 318, which among other things, banned consular cards and IDs created by communities or nonprofits, such as the FaithAction IDs, as acceptable forms of identification.

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen and other registers of deed across the state are scrambling to figure out whether they are bound by the language of this bill and how they will deal with Hispanic residents seeking marriage licenses and birth certificates for their children if Gov. Pat McCrory signs it into law. The vast majority of Hispanics use — you guessed it — consular IDs to apply for both these vital documents.

“It would have a significant impact on Hispanics,” Thigpen said. “Even some Hispanics who are citizens use the consular card. The question is, to what extent are we going to deny an applicant who has an unapproved ID, who otherwise has the right to marry?”

His office conducts an average of 20 marriages each day, and Hispanics using consular cards account for several of those.

“So much time and energy was put into making consular cards a good standard of identification,” Thigpen said. “There’s been a lot of work to make sure those cards are secure and solid. If we can’t use that, what does that mean? Do we then accept your power bill? If we can’t use that, are we relying on a less-secure form of identification?”

There is no explicit guidance in existing statutes about what kind of identification the register of deeds office can accept, but most offices use a common set of guidelines. House Bill 318, however, covers “any government official,” which likely would include employees of the register of deeds.

For Thigpen, it’s another headache from a legislature that is focused more on its next election slogan — “I’m tough on immigration” — than the practical effects this bill might have.

“It was not well thought out, and there was no discussion with our folks,” Thigpen said. “We didn’t know it was coming, and haven’t had time to discuss the implications of it.”

Read more

Commentary

Poll: Even South Carolinians favor citizenship for the undocumented

Notwithstanding the efforts of North Carolina’s current political leadership to outdo their neighbors to the south on virtually every hot button issue on the right wing agenda, the fact remains that South Carolina is and always has been a more conservative state than North Carolina.

That’s what makes the latest news from a Winthrop University poll all the more startling and encouraging. As the Charlotte Observer reports:

“Immigration is weighing on the minds of South Carolinians as the 2016 presidential primaries approach in February.

Consider: Donald Trump, who has adopted a hard line on dealing with the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, leads GOP presidential polls in South Carolina, the state that holds the South’s first presidential primary.

‘You’re not going to be in a town hall for Trump and say you favor a path to citizenship,’ Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said. ‘You’ll be pelted with red trucker hats.’

But the majority of South Carolinians, including Republicans, don’t share the New York business mogul’s deport-them-now views.

Most in the Palmetto State favor giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, under specific requirements, rather than deporting them or allowing them to stay only for a limited time, according to a Winthrop Poll question asked exclusively for The State newspaper.”

The poll found a solid majority (58%) of South Carolinians to be pro-citizenship. Now, this number is not as high as the national figure (65% according to a Gallup poll) but it does serve to reenforce two important points:

  1. When even 58% of South Carolinains are for doing the right and humane thing, you know that even more North Carolinains are for it, and
  2. Governor McCrory might do well to think twice before playing the anti-immigrant card that he loves to flash — especially when it comes to the bill sitting on his desk to make it harder for immigrants to use alternative identification cards. Though he may win plaudits from the far right, Tea Party crowd, the majority of North Carolinians are almost certainly of a different mind.