Opposition follows after governor signs immigration billBy Yasmine Regester / November 6, 2015
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More than 100 people gathered at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum last Wednesday to protest an immigration bill that was signed into law earlier that day.
Greensboro city leaders, residents, and a host of Civil Rights advocates from across the state spoke in opposition of N.C. House Bill 318, the “Protect North Carolina Workers Act,” legislation that outlaws sanctuary cities, or cities with policies or ordinances that restrict the enforcement of federal immigration law.
Governor Pat McCrory visited the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, where he signed the controversial bill into law.
“Today, North Carolina is standing up for the rule of law, which is central to North Carolina values and our country’s values,” said Governor McCrory at the signing. “Public safety officials must have the flexibility and tools to investigate crimes and sanctuary city policies deprive law enforcement of those tools.”
Opponents of the bill say that it unfairly targets immigrants and the homeless by prohibiting the acceptance of community issued IDs, such as those being used in Greensboro. The Greensboro FaithAction ID program issues picture identification cards for people who cannot obtain an ID traditionally, many of them undocumented immigrants, so that they can access essential services.
“This bill targets immigrants and people living in poverty across North Carolina,” said Addy Jeffery, a community advocate in Greensboro.HB 318 makes only certain types of identification acceptable for city services, including pay stubs, utility bills, property tax receipts and state issued IDs. Cards issued by foreign consulates are also considered invalid under HB 318.
Jeff Thigpen, Guilford County Register of Deeds, noted that the bill will also impact people wanting to get married and obtaining birth certificates.
The Greensboro City Council passed a resolution at its last meeting in opposition to the bill, asking the governor not to sign it.
The bill also limits food stamps for single people without children who are unemployed to 90 days of benefits every three years. Under the bill, a person would have to work at least 20 hours a week, complete 20 hours of community service a week, or be in school to continue receiving food stamps.
“House Bill 318 is nothing short of a bad bill,” said At-large City Council member, Marikay Abuzuaiter. “This brings our community to its knees. It affects the homeless, our veterans, and over 1000 people searching for jobs.”
Now that the bill is law, protesters urged the crowd to use their voting powers to change the system.
Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes said the law doesn’t stop people from carrying the FaithAction IDs, but they hold no value. “There’s no data to back them up, no fingerprints, no background checks. People have tried to make this an emotional issue, but it’s a legal one,” said Barnes.
The bill also requires more employers to use E-Verify, a federal database to determine a prospective employee’s immigration status, with the exemption of farm workers.
“The government is sending a message that, ‘Hey, we don’t want immigrants in our state, but let’s keep them in the fields,” said protestor Maria Cortez Perez, who noted the law also poses difficulties for her and her family because all of the identification they have been using is now invalid in North Carolina.
David Fraccaro, executive director of FaithAction International House, said that FaithAction and other organizations will continue to use and accept the IDs in the private sector.
“If history teaches us one thing, the most effective way to discriminate is taking away basic needs. This is not what our state should be about,” said Fraccaro.