Lawmakers hear impassioned arguments on illegal immigration

Posted March 28, 2012

— Dozens of people spoke out Wednesday on whether North Carolina should regulate immigration as state lawmakers consider how to clamp down on the flow of illegal immigrants.

The House Select Committee on the State's Role in Immigration held a two-hour public hearing on the issue, but committee leaders said further meetings would be put off until the fall as the state awaits a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of tough immigration restrictions in Arizona.

"If you're not here legally, you are stealing from all the rest of us," Cindy Caribou told lawmakers. "We cannot just open everything to everybody in the world."

Several ministers said Christianity calls for people to help the downtrodden, including foreigners, and immigrant advocates said punishing illegal immigrants creates more problems than it solves.

Patricia Adams of the group We Are North Carolina said immigrant workers, many of whom are undocumented, are a critical component of North Carolina's agricultural industry.

"We want our state to actually be inclusive, honorable and just, not just seem that way," Adams said. "Legislators should stop dividing our communities and instead work for policies that unite us and make us stronger."

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates North Carolina ranks ninth in population among the states with what it calls 325,000 unauthorized immigrants, defined as foreign-born citizens of other countries who aren't legal immigrants.

The Republican-controlled state House is considering measures similar to laws enacted in Alabama and Arizona that restrict access to public services by undocumented workers and empower local law enforcement officers to identify those in the country illegally.

Federal authorities who enforce immigration laws have generally discouraged such state-based initiatives.

Immigration supporter Immigration advocates, opponents sound off for lawmakers

William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, expressed frustration with lawmakers, saying they have ignored addressing the immigration issue for years.

"Stop being cowardly. Get on board with the brave heroes down in Arizona," Gheen said. "If we go through another year without significant immigration enforcement laws in North Carolina, the public out there threw the Democrats out of power after 133 years, and one of the biggest issues on their minds was illegal immigration.

"If we've got to throw out Sen. (Phil) Berger as president (pro tem) of the Senate and Thom Tillis down as the speaker of the House, let's do it," he said.

The North Carolina Farm Bureau is urging lawmakers to take a measured approach to the immigration issue, running ads that show the damage to the agriculture industry in states that have adopted strict rules.

"There's a lot of undocumented labor in agriculture," Henderson County nursery owner Bert Lemkes said after Wednesday's hearing.

House panel discusses illegal immigration in NC House panel discusses illegal immigration in NC

Lemkes wants an easier process to provide work visas, not a harder one. A tough stance by North Carolina lawmakers would be "an absolute disaster" for the industry, he said.

The House committee held two previous meetings on the immigration issue. The last meeting was disrupted near the end by a handful of young Hispanics wearing T-shirts saying "Undocumented and Unafraid."

Uriel Alberto, Estephania Mijangos-Lopez and Cynthia Martinez, who are members of the pro-immigrant group N.C. Dream and say they are undocumented, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Committee Co-Chairman Harry Warren warned speakers Wednesday that disruptions wouldn't be tolerated, and he even asked the audience to stop applauding after each speaker finished to maintain order in the hearing.


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  • ladyblue Mar 29, 2012

    If the lawmakers had made sure the law was enforced after Reagan gave amnesty in the 80's, there would be no illegal aliens to contend with now. Too late to try to close the barn door after all the horses have escaped...

  • tafoghorn Mar 29, 2012

    "They are getting special services and we are footing the bill."

    You are forgetting that many if not most of "they" are US citizens........under the 14th amendment.

    Cause for loss of citizenship...
    Fraud in the naturalization process. Technically, this is not loss of citizenship but rather a voiding of the purported naturalization and a declaration that the immigrant never was a United States citizen.

    Entering the country for the specific reasons of having a "citizen" that keeps them here could be viewed as a type of fraud. (Similar to marryign a stranger to gain citizenship.)

    I have no problem with someone coming to this country to better their situation.... That's why my ancestors came. But if you start by breaking the law, and you get by with it, why would you feel the need to follow other laws? Where is the line drawn?
    Just a thought

  • Rebelyell55 Mar 29, 2012

    One last note, there was help for the illegals 30 to 40 years ago, but you had to prove who you were back then. Now, you don't. You just show up with any false documentation, and your good to go. Remember how NC was giving out NC driver license and they use them as ID, before 911.

  • Rebelyell55 Mar 29, 2012

    Rebelyell55, if the illegals were picking veggies then going back home at the end of the season,noone would really care
    March 28, 2012 7:29 p.m.
    .....You're right, and that how it was 30 to 40 years ago, but now thing down south of the boarder is so bad, they're not going back. Also, the number of latinos who are here illegal aren't from Mexico, those are the ones who'll never, ever go back. The support groups in NC who help them, are hold many in slave like condition, collecting "fees" for helping them, these "fees" can go on for years, since the person(s) are held in fear of being deported or reported for their false ID they're using. The crimminal element and abuse of these people is larger than our officals want to admit. Many of these support groups actually operate under the disquise of being churches. Like I stated earlier, our goverment has allowed this to happen over the last 25 years and not it's too late to do anything, except maybe get em properly documented.

  • Tcheuchter Mar 29, 2012

    "I have many illegal friends that work harder every day than most of have ever thought about. They are good people whom love their family and only want a better life for their kids. The situation in most of Mexico is awful with all throw Drug Cartels Murdering locals left right and center. We all need to remember what is inscribed on Lady Liberty in New York Harbor and quit being such bigots."

    We do need to limit immigration and a secure border would be a good place to start as would jail sentences for those that employ them.
    However neither are likely so long as Business profits from the cheap labor.....the GOP are certainly not going to do anything substantive....why would they?

  • Tcheuchter Mar 29, 2012

    "They are getting special services and we are footing the bill."

    You are forgetting that many if not most of "they" are US citizens........under the 14th amendment.

  • Tcheuchter Mar 29, 2012

    "He knows he is here illegally, but can stand up in front of all those people and excercise his right to free speech. It is laughable how we are letting these illegals basically spit in our faces!"

    free speech is the same as spitting in your face? In any case since immigration is a federal issue who at this meeting would have any right to arrest him?

    Glad to hear they decided not to pursue this issue until SCOTUS rules on similar cases. The GOP have wasted enough State money on nonsense already.

  • Follow_The_Money27617 Mar 29, 2012

    Didnt the GOP have Bush and 6 years of control? What did they do about immigration? The GOP was too busy worrying about the borders in the Middle East than the ones here in America.

  • cris3528 Mar 29, 2012

    Did anyone see the guy talking about how his kids had no where to go after high school? He basically admitted that he nor his children were legal.(he was talking about how they couldn't go to college because of their illegal status) I wonder if someone had gone up to that podium and said I am currently violating my probation or I have an outstanding warrant for a no show in court what would of happened. They would have had a free ride to county jail!

    He knows he is here illegally, but can stand up in front of all those people and excercise his right to free speech. It is laughable how we are letting these illegals basically spit in our faces!

  • cris3528 Mar 29, 2012

    The agricultural argument is ridiculous. What happens when they become legal and KNOW they have all the rights and benefits of being a legal citizen? They will demand better working conditions, they won't be afraid to complain to government agencies and they will want what any other worker that the farmers COULD employee would want as citizens. Farmers have had it easy with the cheap labor and sub-standard living conditions they provide for illegals. How many workers compensation or lawsuits do you think farmer have now from their workers? I'd be willing to bet there are very few. Once they are citizens that will change. Fear is a great motivator to keep someone under your thumb and keep them quite! Yes, the farmers could pay them the same, but I wonder how many of them will stay? I also wonder how high the farmers unemployment tax would rise when they start collecting during the off season?

    The argument is not very well thought out!