A capacity crowd showed up Thursday for the unveiling of a series of “immigrant-friendly” policies – including an official Charlotte ID – that will be debated in coming months by the City Council.
The event, held at Central Piedmont Community College, marked the first time the public had a chance to hear the result of a yearlong study into how Charlotte can reap the economic and civic benefits of its rapidly growing immigrant population.
Charlotte’s Immigrant Integration Task Force, created by the City Council, hosted the meeting in an effort to get public feedback before submitting the proposals to the council at a Feb. 23 meeting.
Little criticism was registered from the diverse crowd of nearly 200 people, which included City Council member David Howard, a Democrat.
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However, some attendees questioned who will pay for implementation of such proposals as creating an Office of New Charlotteans and adding more bilingual city staff. “This (funding) is something the city will have to struggle with,” said task force member Jennifer Roberts.
Concerns were also raised about how reliable a municipal ID would be when it comes to proving the identity of immigrants who don’t have Social Security numbers.
Stefan Latorre, co-chair of the task force, told the crowd that documented proof of identity and proof of residency in the city are two things that would be required to get an ID. That could include finger printing and/or passports, he said.
The municipal ID would not give immigrants who are in the country illegally the right to drive in North Carolina.
However, among the task force recommendations is a call for the city to lobby state leaders to make driver’s licenses available to all residents. of North Carolina, along with allowing in-state college tuition rates for undocumented immigrant students who have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Task force recommendations will be considered by the city council in coming months. The task force was created by a council resolution in November 2013.
Mayor Dan Clodfelter met with the task force in June and said he supported the idea of a municipal ID that could be used by all residents of the city.
Critics of the ID claim that it would give “legitimacy” to immigrants not in the country legally.
Supporters say the ID would help law enforcement identify individuals who are currently not allowed to have a state driver’s license. The cards could also be used for a variety of existing programs, such as library cards and as a means of paying for public transportation and parking, said the task force.
It’s unknown how many undocumented immigrants live in the city. However, about 14 percent of Charlotte’s population is foreign-born, many of them Hispanics. Mecklenburg County’s Hispanic population grew by nearly 11 percent to 125,000 residents between 2010 and 2013 – twice as fast as the white population.