Immigration proposal softened in House committee

Posted May 1, 2013
Updated May 2, 2013

— Legislation that would provide North Carolina driver's licenses to people in the U.S. illegally while also authorizing detainment measures similar to those used in Arizona passed its first test in the General Assembly on Wednesday.

A House judiciary committee passed House Bill 786, dubbed the RECLAIM NC Act, and it now goes to the House Finance Committee.

"This is about law enforcement, this is about public safety and, yes, it does touch on the illegally present community," said sponsor Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan.

The bill would require residents in the country illegally to pursue a restricted driver's license and auto insurance – the Division of Motor Vehicles began issuing licenses in March to young people in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – and allow police to detain people suspected of lacking documentation for up to 24 hours to verify their legal status.

Some of the bill's other law enforcement measures were softened before the measure was presented to the committee. Restrictions on bond release would no longer apply to minor traffic violations and drug possession, and Democrats successfully pushed for including simple assault, disturbing the peace, public drunkenness and other minor crimes as well.

Also, those living in the country illegally could post secured bond when charged with a felony or more serious misdemeanor, and they would have to pay for their incarceration costs after arrest only in cases resulting in a conviction.

Although the bill no longer requires law enforcement to detain people, immigration advocates say they remain concerned that the bill's language gives officers too much discretion and could result in racial profiling.

An estimated 325,000 immigrants in the country without permission lived in North Carolina as of 2010, up from 210,000 a decade earlier.

"We are open to looking at some type of qualifying language where it may be, if they stopped somebody in the commission of a crime, that gives them cause then to investigate even further," Warren said.

He said the intent is to go after the criminals who don't belong in North Carolina – or the U.S.

Some advocates say it's likely upwards of 200,000 people in the country illegally will come out of the shadows if concerns are addressed.

"We are very optimistic now more than ever," said Maudia Melendez of Jesus Ministries, a Charlotte-based advocacy group.

Ron Cox, president of Jesus Ministries, pointed to a driver's license as a ticket to freedom from fear.

"With this permit, I would not be questioned of my status," Cox said. "They would already know they've already taken my fingerprints. They know I'm not wanted by the law enforcement. So, therefore, I wouldn't fear taking my child to school. I wouldn't fear going to his baseball game or another church function."


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  • driverkid3 May 2, 2013

    francisjana2, I hate that illegals criminal aliens are flooding our country with absolutely NO respect for us or what we stand for.

    Thank you so very much for doing things the right way, the legal way. I would be the first to shake your hand for that. I wish everyone would have that kind of consideration for this country and it's citizens.

  • Krimson May 2, 2013

    Bonnnie: "If a woman has a child here & she is illegal deport her & the child"

    Willing to throw aside the US Constitution, just to keep some of her tax dollars... Awesome...

  • bonnnie May 1, 2013

    Immigration is simple if a person is here illegally then that person shouldd be deported! If a woman has a child here & she is illegal deport her & the child its not fair to tax payer to have to keep them up!!! DEPORT THEM ALL! SIMPLE AS THAT!

  • Terkel May 1, 2013

    And how telling that this illegal bill allowing illegals to stay here is called RECLAIM.

    Has anyone decided what to do about the illegals who will STILL not come forward? Of course not. The plan is to give everyone full citizenship before the next election. They're just doing it piecemeal so there won't be a violent uprising.

  • Terkel May 1, 2013

    ""This is about law enforcement, this is about public safety and, yes, it does touch on the illegally present community," said sponsor Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan."

    It flies in the face of law enforcement because the law is not being enforced. This one won't be either. It threatens safety - did you notice how assault, drugs and drunkenness are OK if you're illegal? - and I can't translate the rest of the baby-babble. Warren, you're a coward and a traitor.

  • erospawn May 1, 2013

    All talk, no spine. They are voted out next time. That's how NC works, right! -- NoTimeForStupidity

    That's right! And that's exactly how they got voted in!

  • erospawn May 1, 2013

    NoTimeForStupidity --- right! That's how NC works! ..And That's how they got voted in. I'll tell you liberals what you tell me when I get angry about something going on..you don't like it, then leave. I paid my dues going through the entire immigration process with my wife. I filed enough forms and paid lots of fees and waited months for my wife to be able to come here legally. I had to plan several visits to her country just to be able to see her. It's an insult to my wife and all those who wait there turn to enter this country legally.. Either abolish all Immigration laws or follow the ones already on the books..My wife, who is not white, and more conservative than I am also voted for those people in office.

  • WralCensorsAreBias May 1, 2013

    All talk, no spine. They are voted out next time. That's how NC works, right!

  • francisjana2 May 1, 2013

    I take it as a privilege to be here in the US, legally, with 3 bachelors degree and a masters and teaching in a high school for the past 8 years.
    But don't ask me if I have my green card or residency status yet. It is still in the process. And you should not ask me how much fee I have to pay to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). During these 8 years I have spent 31,000 dollars for my wife, two children, and myself to stay legally.
    And did I pay my taxes? Yes. All the years up to date.
    Am I happy with the immigration policy? No.
    Do I regret being in this country? No. I consider it as a privilege to be here, working honestly.
    I want the best for my children, which I can not give back in my home country.
    But one thing that makes me sad is that, in spite of having all the paper work done legally, some government officials treat me just like they would treat an illegal immigrant. It might take another 4 years to become a resident given the long line.

  • Hubris May 1, 2013

    "That usually translates into people being cut from government enforcement jobs."

    Sumo Vita, you're believing Obama and Democrat scare tactics. Obama shuts down the White House to visitors, but he hasn't cut the White House travel budget. Air Force One continues to fly on a regular basis.

    LEOs are the last to be cut.