To hear Rep. George Cleveland tell it, identification cards issued by foreign consulates are as authentic as a $3 bill.
Cleveland, R-Onslow, wants to limit the types of IDs people in North Carolina can use to register to vote, obtain automobile insurance or enroll in Medicaid. Driver's licenses, military IDs and passports are OK under House Bill 33, but consular cards are not.
Cleveland, the sponsor of the bill, says governments in countries like Mexico don't do background checks on people who apply for consular cards, so they don't know who has cards and under what names.
"People are coming across the Mexican border, picking up (consular) cards and disappearing into our society," he said, tying the cards both to illegal immigrants and terrorists.
Several Democratic lawmakers questioned whether the SBI has linked the cards to crime problems in North Carolina. Cleveland said no one from the Department of Justice has asked for the legislation, but added "I'll bet everything I own" that illegal immigrants charged with crimes always have a consular card in their pocket.
Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, said outlawing consular cards in North Carolina could lead to an increase in uninsured drivers on state roads, which could push up insurance rates for everyone else.
A representative of the Latin American Coalition said people in the guest worker program who are hired to tend crops on North Carolina farms often use consular cards. Also, police often use consular cards to identify foreigners during investigations, she told lawmakers.
Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, noted the Bull City approved a police request last fall that consular cards be accepted as IDs.
Cleveland was adamant in his opposition to the IDs. "The only people that need a consular card are illegal aliens," he said.
The Judiciary Committee put off a vote on the bill until members could hear from a representative of the Mexican consulate about how they verify the identity of people who are given consular cards.