Commentary

Charlotte Observer exposes wrongheaded attack on “sanctuary cities”

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

Unrepentant Alamance sheriff to send officers to anti-immigrant group’s event at public expense

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

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina communities benefiting from immigration

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.

Table 2-no number-PW

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

House Republicans spar over driving privileges for undocumented immigrants (video)

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

Just in: Fifth Circuit refuses to lift temporary block of Obama immigration plan

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.