ID bill targeting immigrants heads to McCrory’s desk undocumented workersBy Yasmine Regester / October 2, 2015
A bill aimed at changing the types of identification undocumented residents can use made its way through the state legislature this week.
House Bill 318 has lain dormant in a Senate committee since April but was revived this week, the last week of the N.C. legislative session. Also known as the Protect North Carolina Workers Act, the bill bans cities and counties from providing what is known as “sanctuary cities” for those living in the country illegally.
Local governments would not be able to prohibit law enforcement agencies from collecting residents’ immigration information and reporting it to the federal government. The state Senate passed the bill in a 28-17 vote on Monday. The state House approved the bill in a 70-43 vote on Tuesday. It is now headed to Gov. McCrory’s desk to be signed into law.
A group comprised of Greensboro residents, community, city and faith leaders, and Greensboro Police Department administrators spoke out against the state legislation Monday afternoon. They say the bill gives limited protection for North Carolina’s undocumented workers.
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.
“This is about a bill that will hurt North Carolina workers, their families and small businesses,” said Rev. David Fraccaro, executive director of FaithAction International House (FAIH), a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of immigrants.
Greensboro’s FaithAction International House has initiated a program that issues photo identification cards to people, primarily immigrants. Such an ID helps immigrants obtain services such as utility service connections. HB 318 would make only specific types of identification acceptable to obtain city services such as pay stubs, utility bills, property tax receipts and government issued IDs. Cards issued by foreign consulates would also be considered invalid under HB 318.
“It punishes law abiding immigrants. The bill has the potential to keep parents from registering their kids for school or get their electricity on,” said Fraccaro.
The city of Greensboro accepts the FaithAction ID card to provide services such as water and obtain library cards. The program’s success in Greensboro has led other municipalities to inquire about how to implement it in their communities.
The card helps individuals like Dulce Ortiz, who uses her card to obtain health services, visit the local library and pick up her kids from school.
“This card equals safety and security. It means not being afraid to call the police if you are the victim of a crime. This ID helps provide trust between your neighbors and community,” said Ortiz.
Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow), the lead author of the bill in the House of Representatives, has said his goal is to keep people from migrating illegally to the state because they are taking jobs away from North Carolina citizens.
Greensboro community leaders believe that this bill threatens all the work the community has done over the years to be inclusive.
At-large Greensboro City Councilmember, Marikay Abuzuaiter called for more public input on the bill. “I am upset we don’t have public input on this. We are a nation of immigrants. Now we’re going to turn away those who are productive taxpayers of our society. The card lets people know that these people are residents of Greensboro,” said Abuzuaiter.
According to FAIH, more than 3,000 ID cards have been issued between Greensboro and Alamance County since the program’s inception three years ago.
HB 318 limits the types of identification a police officer can accept when verifying one’s identity. Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott said the FaithAction ID has helped the international community build trusting relationships with law enforcement.
“If I’ve learned anything, it is the chief has to find ways to break down those barriers within our community and police department. People are more willing to help the police if they do not fear calling the police. It makes our city safer,” said Scott who added the department was able to make arrests in a human trafficking case and a child exploitation case because of tips from undocumented immigrants.
Scott noted that someone has to be able to convince an officer of his or her real identity and real address.
“The law is fairly clear on if someone doesn’t have ID. All I can hope is that we can continue to cultivate relationships with those populations,” said Scott.
Burlington Police Captain Jeff Wood noted the FAIH ID cards also help save police resources, because officers do not have to leave street patrol to arrest and book an individual.
“This bill also affects the homeless,” said Wood. “Our goal as law enforcement is to build mutual relationships in our community.”
The bill also ends extensions to the 90-day limit on food stamps for childless and unemployed residents who work or volunteer less than 20 hours a week. The bill bans the state from accepting money from the federal government to pay for extensions. The extensions are scheduled to end in March, 2016.