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Immigration and the People's Will

Yesterday, many of North Carolina's working families breathed a huge sigh of relief. The North Carolina House Select Committee on the State's Role in Immigration Policy (HSC) published its report with recommendations for the 2013 legislative session. According to the report, they have decided not to propose as a committee any anti-immigrant legislation for 2013.

Instead, the recommendations proposed:

  • Called for the federal government to take a more active role in solving the undocumented immigration issue
  • Recommended that the North Carolina General Assembly review past proposed legislation and solicit input form interested stakeholders
  • Called on North Carolina legislators pass resolutions encouraging our congressional delegates to take a leadership role in introducing legislation that would revise our immigration laws.
  • Solicit more input from "entities with economic interests in the issue" (agriculture, agribusiness, construction, hospitality, information technology)
  • A renewed focus on economic development potential and opportunities to increase North Carolina's regional competitiveness through pragmatic approaches to immigration in this State

But, they also left the door open for individual legislators. During the reading of the report, it was stated that it is now up to individual legislators to propose legislation in 2013.

According to an article that came out this morning on the conservative John Locke Foundation's "flagship media program" the Carolina Journal:

Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow. . . said he hopes that the General Assembly will revisit a couple of bills he’s supported in the past. Those include one that would prohibit North Carolina police or other government officials from accepting the matricula consular card for identification purposes. Mexican consulates generally issue such cards for Mexican nationals living in the United States.

Another bill Cleveland hopes would gain traction next year is one requiring contractors and subcontractors with municipalities to use the federal E-Verify system when hiring employees.

The report states that the House Select Committee on the State's Role in Immigration Policy met 4 times. It then gives brief summaries of the minutes from each meeting. One thing to note is that the first 3 meetings were very much slanted against undocumented immigrants. There were no experts invited to give opposite viewpoints to the anti-immigrant sentiments of the law enforcement official who spoke.

It was not until the 4th and last meeting that those affected or their advocates were invited to testify. I was there at the 4th meeting held on March 28, 2012. The VERY BRIEF paragraph allotted in the report to immigrant rights advocates does not do justice to what really happened at that meeting. On March 28, the pro-immigrant community came out and spoke in large enough numbers that the Committee decided to postpone any future meetings until after the United States Supreme ruled on the constitutionality of Arizona's SB 1070. But, the report conveniently omits any statement made by the public.

Instead, what little is said about the game changing March 28 meeting is limited to a short emotional plea by an immigrant advocate and a longer more detailed inaccurate paragraph by a conservative anti-immigrant activist. This report, in its choice of language and omissions shows what are the biases of the members of the committee.

On a positive note, the fact that the HSC chose not to propose any new legislation is a testament to the power of the grassroots effort put forth by immigrant rights advocates and the business community. Through a progressive coalition made up of organizations from the faith-based, advocacy, legislative, business, and community organizing communities, the people's will was heard and the legislators carried it out.

To further illustrate this point, the authors of the report concede the following:

The Committee also finds that North Carolina has derived strength and prosperity from legal immigration and that legal immigrants continue to make vital contributions to the State. Therefore, the Committee further finds that there is strong need for State-level legislation that acknowledges the impact of immigration upon the agriculture, construction, hospitality, information technology, and science-based industries in North Carolina, each of which relies on an economical and dependable labor force with varying skill sets.

The results of the report also illustrate how the ever evolving electorate is changing the dialogue.

After President Obama's astounding victory at the polls, our elected officials (Rep and Dem) have realized that the immigrant vote -more specifically the Latino vote- can decide an election. The administration has finally committed to make a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) that keeps families together an important part of its agenda. Republicans on the national level have recognized that they need to rethink their stance on the issue and have committed to work with Democrats to find a bipartisan solution that is right for America.

One can only hope that this national trend will make its way to North Carolina. It is about time that our elected officials see the light and recognize the truth. This country is made up of and was built by immigrants. Immigrants are a vital part of the economic and social fabric of America and North Carolina.

Legislation that attacks our immigrant population is bad for North Carolina (economically and socially) and bad for America.