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A group of Asian American “DREAM Riders” from California, Illinois and Virginia will be traveling across the country in the next 2 weeks in a “national effort to build a unified Asian American voice for comprehensive immigration reform.”

They will be stopping tonight at 630pm in Charlotte at The Asian Library for a community forum “What’s ‘Asians’ got to do with it?” to address how immigration reform impacts the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. The forum is hosted by the Southeast Asian Coalition, United 4 the Dream, and the Latin American Coalition.

More information about the “DREAM Riders” tour across America here: http://krcla.org/en/Dream

Dream-riders-charlotte-poster

 

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In case you missed it over the weekend, Raleigh’s News & Observer had an encouraging story in the Sunday edition. This is the summary from the good folks at Uniting NC:

Today’s N&O includes a great story about Uniting NC’s most recent volunteer day.

Last Saturday we continued our series of service events  bringing together immigrants and non-immigrants to give back to their community. And again we had lots of great volunteers looking to lend a hand. This time we had over 30 volunteers from 10 different countries.

We sometimes hear cynics tell us that people are coming to the U.S. looking for handouts. They emphasize costs without considering contributions. But have they ever met the people they’re talking about? Read More

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Immigrant rightsThe following post comes to us from Hector Vaca, Charlotte Director of the progressive advocacy group, Action NC:

“Now hear this!  A People’s platform opposing HB 786, the RECLAIM NC Act

In the last few weeks, I’ve worked with community leaders and members of our organization, Action NC, and various partner groups around the state, to hold community forums in Spanish about House Bill 786, the “RECLAIM NC” Act, being considered now in the state legislature. In the forums, our organizations and lawyers shared information about exactly what is included in each section of the bill.  But the main goal of the workshops was to hear from immigrant communities directly THEIR thoughts and opinions on the bill. Participants had a variety of ways to express their views about these issues, including group discussion, Q&A and interactive activities like voting on various provisions as harmful or beneficial.

By now, forums have happened all over the state, from Hendersonville to Burgaw, from Charlotte to Durham, from Greenville to Siler City, from Raleigh to Raeford, and other towns, too. There have been at least 18 workshops in all. The sizes of forums ranged from 15 participants to 120 or more. More than 750 immigrant community members have participated in total.  This is no small accomplishment, and it means, to us at Action NC, that the immigrant community is discussing the bill in some detail, and here’s what they are saying: Read More

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The good folks at the Immigration Policy Center and the American immigration Council have released newly updated state-by-state fact sheets with accompanying infographics that highlight the demographic and economic impact of New Americans, Asians and Latinos in each state. This is from the introduction to the North Carolina page:

“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 7.3% of the state’s population, while more than 1 in 10 North Carolinians are Latino or Asian. Moreover, Latinos and Asians wield $22.9 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. At a time when the economy is still recovering, North Carolina can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.”

Click here to view the very cool and informative infographic.

 

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What would be the measure of success if HB 786, or the RECLAIM NC Act, went into effect?

If just one third of North Carolina’s undocumented population were to get a driving permit or ID under it, would those who are pushing for the driving privileges offered in this bill still be in favor of it?

As it’s written now, HB 786, or the RECLAIM NC Act, will likely exclude seasonal workers from getting a driver permit. It will exclude anyone who can’t prove they have lived here for at least a year and haven’t been here before April 1, 2013. And it will exclude anyone who can’t afford to front a year’s worth of insurance ahead of time.

And if anyone doubts that many undocumented immigrants will either choose to not get the permit or be unable to get it, just look at Utah.

Just over one third of the estimated 110,000 undocumented people in Utah have gotten their driving privilege, which has a more lenient six month residency requirement than North Carolina’s one year requirement, and Utah’s doesn’t exclude everyone who moved into the state after a certain date, as North Carolina’s proposal does.

Like the proposal in North Carolina, Utah’s permit must be renewed annually. In 2012, just under 37,000 people of the estimated 110,000 undocumented in Utah applied for the permits, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Even after subtracting Utah’s estimated 13,000 undocumented youth between ages 5 and 30 who would be eligible for the Obama designation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (which includes just about everyone who isn’t old enough to drive or folks who now can get a regular drivers license), we’re still at just 38 percent of Utah’s estimated undocumented immigrant population who has accessed these privileges.

Utah used to issue driver permits to undocumented immigrants that looked mostly like regular drivers licenses, but in 2010, after Arizona passed its infamous SB1070, Utah’s permit included language to make it clear the holder was in the country unlawfully. The permit also includes biometric information, like what North Carolina is proposing.

The driving privilege changes in Utah happened independent of Utah’s own omnibus anti-immigrant bill. That law has been stopped from going into effect with an injunction that still hasn’t been lifted.

If that law does go into effect, then Utah’s undocumented but legal drivers could likely become driving targets because the card is an admission of one’s status.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, the architect of Utah’s Arizona-style bill, acknowledged that “The driving privilege card will, in an ironic way, be absolute admission that you are subject to the provisions of this bill,” he said in the Deseret News in August, 2010.

In North Carolina, the Arizona bill and the driver permit are part of the same bill, and, as immigration lawyer Marty Rosenbluth of the NC Immigrants Rights Project wrote in an open letter to legislators, that same “ironic” admission of status could get a lot of people in trouble.

North Carolina’s version of the bill does say that holders of the restricted driving permit cannot be held for immigration reasons only. But it doesn’t stop people with the permit from being held on minor arrestable offenses that might lead to detection by ICE.

“With the restricted drivers permit, people who are carrying them will now have proof of their immigration status in their pocket,” Rosenbluth wrote, adding, ” For cases like my Jackson county cases where ICE was collaborating with local law enforcement, ICE will have now have all proof they need to complete their deportation.”

If, like in Utah, just one third of the undocumented population gets the driving permit, then the other two thirds can be held after a lawful stop for up to two hours to investigate immigration status. Those caught driving without a license can have their car seized and possibly forfeited unless they can produce an expired license.

Also, it’s unclear if  North Carolina’s HB 786 would allow the federal government to obtain the immigration information provided by drivers’ permit applicants from the state DMV. The information could also fall into the hands of an overzealous state employee or be inappropriately leaked, like what happened in Utah in 2010

Participants in community forums the Justice Center has organized have been very leery of sharing their sensitive immigration information with the DMV for these reasons.

Nowadays, though, it seems Utah’s chief architect of the omnibus bill is suffering from a hate hangover. Sandstrom, the former anti-immigrant zealot, has put a face to undocumented immigration and now wants Utah to repeal its Arizona copycat provisions.

This returns us to the question of who will think N.C.’s RECLAIM NC Act was a success. If Utah is any indication, even sponsors will have their regrets of proposing such a punitive and short-sighted measure.

The authors of RECLAIM NC say they want to ferret out the “hardened criminals” from the “good” undocumented immigrants. HB 786 isn’t an effective way of doing that.  Immigration is too complicated for such a black and white approach.

North Carolina can do better.