Advocates speak out against immigration crackdown

Posted June 28

This is a shot of the entrance area to the N.C. Legislative Building.

— As Senate lawmakers gave final approval to House Bill 100 Tuesday, immigrant rights activists appeared with Democratic lawmakers and local leaders at the legislature, calling on House lawmakers to halt the speedy progress of the measure.

The proposal would ban law enforcement agencies from recognizing consular or local identification cards.

A law passed last year banned city and county governments from recognizing non-official IDs but left a loophole for law enforcement use after some police chiefs objected to the ban. This year, Republican House and Senate leaders said that loophole has been exploited by groups like Faith Action International, a Greensboro-based nonprofit that has issued some 6,000 community IDs in a dozen North Carolina municipalities over the past few years.

House Bill 100 also requires the Attorney General's Office, with the help of the State Bureau of Investigation, to investigate any complaint – even anonymous ones – that a city or county is violating the ban. If a city or county is found to be recognizing non-official IDs in any capacity, it could lose its state road repair or school construction money, respectively.

The legislation also requires clerks of court to maintain a publicly accessible list of names and addresses of people who are excused from jury duty because they are not citizens and to forward those names to the State Board of Elections, and it requires more employers and contractors to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of workers.

House and Senate leaders who support the bill call it an "incentive" for local governments to follow the state law. But local leaders and immigrant rights advocates say it's one of the harshest pieces of anti-immigrant legislation in the nation.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle appeared with town Police Chief Walter Horton. She said Carrboro's population is about 18 percent immigrant, and the "Faith IDs" have helped build trust and cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement, which often faces sizable barriers in trying to investigate crime against or within such communities.

"For many of us, this is very political, but for our law enforcement, it’s all about the safety of our communities. It’s not political for them. It’s about their job and doing what they are sworn to do," Lavelle said. "I am committed to providing for the health, safety and welfare of all of the residents of the town, and when my police chief and all my residents tell me that this program helps achieve that goal, I want to listen to them."

Senate leaders have called the Faith Action cards "fake IDs," saying they aren't secure enough to be trusted. But Sarah Rawleigh with Faith Action International said her organization has stringent identification verification requirements. She said the program has the backing of sheriffs in nine counties and police departments in 12 cities in North Carolina.

Lawmakers supporting House Bill 100, Rawleigh said, "are using dangerous and offensive stereotypes to create fear around immigration at a time when many of our communities in North Carolina have chosen to welcome our newest neighbors and need their help to create safer communities."

The proposal passed its final Senate vote Tuesday afternoon. It now goes back to the House for a final concurrence vote.


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