Raleigh, N.C. — Tighter rules designed to ensure that workers are in the United States legally cleared its second House committee in a week on Wednesday.
House Bill 318 would expand the number of employers who have to use the E-verify system to ensure a new employee is a legal resident. Current law requires checks for businesses with 25 or more employees. The bill would lower that threshold to five employees.
After push-back from agricultural interests during the past legislative session, Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said the bill would exempt farm workers from the requirement for background checks.
It would also emphasize that state and local governments should be ensuring that contractors use E-verify.
"The Commissioner of Labor is going to check that government entities are following the law and if not, they're going to put it on their web site," Cleveland told members of the House Judiciary IV Committee.
The measure also makes it illegal to use consular or embassy documents for any government purpose, including identifying yourself to a police officer.
In North Carolina, matricula consular cards issued by the Mexican embassy have been the subject of much dispute, with groups that push for tighter immigration standards pushing for their elimination from use in public life.
"Anyone that has to have a consular card is here illegally," Cleveland said.
Their use in the 1990s and early 2000s created "a mess" for the state, particularly when it came to issuing drivers licenses he said.
Under the bill, which is now headed to the House floor, no state or local government could accept a consular document for purposes of identification or residency. This would affect cities such as Durham, where city councils have specifically voted to accept consular cards for some purposes. It would also block the use of foreign-issued documents for certain other government services where they are now acceptable, including applications for a pistol purchase permit.
"We haven’t taken an official position on this bill," said Angeline Echeverria, a spokeswoman for El Pueblo, a group that lobbies on behalf of Hispanic and Latino residents. "In our experience, the use of consular documents as identification has been very beneficial for members of the immigrant community. People who have identification documents that will be accepted are often more willing to interact with the police as witnesses or victims of crime; are more likely to visit their children’s schools; and are less likely to be victims of crime because they can open bank accounts."