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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

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

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.
Commentary

Today’s edition of the Weekly Briefing examines a mean-spirited proposal approved by state lawmakers in the final days of the 2015 session to take meager food benefits away from hungry people. The provision is reason enough for Governor McCrory to veto House Bill 318.

Amazingly, however, this is not the most controversial portion of HB 318. The bill also contains a major new attack on immigrants that really amounts to an attack on public health and safety. The editorial page of the Charlotte Observer explains:

“House Bill 318 would forbid local governments from ordering their police forces to de-emphasize or stop the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Such ‘sanctuary city’ provisions are in place formally and informally in dozens of cities and counties across the country, including Charlotte.

It’s not news that Republican lawmakers in North Carolina want to tell cities how to do their business. But the bill, which Gov. Pat McCrory is likely to sign into law this month, also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of immigration law and how it’s enforced.

Sanctuary cities have become a flashpoint in the immigration debate in recent months, thanks in part to some misinformed rhetoric that the governor parroted last week. Said McCrory: ‘As governor, I believe that every law enforcement officer is sworn to uphold not only the laws of North Carolina, but also the laws of the United States … including our immigration laws.’

But police in sanctuary cities aren’t ignoring the law, and they’re not hiding undocumented immigrants from the clutches of federal agents. What those cities have chosen to do is not use their resources – meaning officers and jails – to serve the purposes of federal programs. That means officers are not asking people their immigration status at traffic stops – and therefore not being obligated to bring undocumented workers in. It also means when undocumented immigrants are arrested for unrelated crimes, many of these cities have chosen not to keep them jailed solely to wait for federal agents to arrive.

It’s a decision cities make for philosophical and budgetary reasons. Either way, it’s legal. The Constitution says that while federal law usually supersedes state law, states are not required to enforce laws that are exclusively federal in nature (such as immigration). In Printz. v. United States, which involved background checks of gun purchases, the Supreme Court said that “the Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers … to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

The author of that opinion? Conservative icon Antonin Scalia.

The editorial goes on to explain that McCrory and conservative lawmakers are using baseless scare tactics to imply that such sanctuary laws somehow prevent the arrest of dangerous criminals — something that is patently false. Let’s fervently hope the words of his hometown paper cause the Guv rethink his position on this issue.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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
Terrorism
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