Politics & Government

Immigration bill clears NC Senate

Immigration activists chant behind a cardboard coffin on the front steps of the Attorney General's office at in 2014. Legislation approved in the state Senate would ban local governments from refusing to enforce immigration laws.
Immigration activists chant behind a cardboard coffin on the front steps of the Attorney General's office at in 2014. Legislation approved in the state Senate would ban local governments from refusing to enforce immigration laws. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The state Senate voted 28-17 to restrict forms of identification for non-citizens and ban counties and municipalities from having “sanctuary city” policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws.

The bill was approved largely along party lines, with Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh as the only Democrat voting yes.

Supporters of the measure say local governments shouldn’t get to opt out of federal laws. They pointed to several “sanctuary cities” in North Carolina, including Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham.

Local governments would be banned from preventing their law enforcement officers from asking about a suspect’s immigration status. They also couldn’t stop law enforcement from sharing immigration information with federal authorities.

The immigration provision is part of a larger “Protect North Carolina Workers Act” that also would require state and local government agencies to hire only contractors that follow E-Verify laws to check workers’ immigration status. It now goes back to the House for a concurrence vote.

The bill also establishes that ID cards issued by municipalities and counties or consular documents aren’t a valid form of identification.

That provision drew concern from Democrats and law enforcement officials in cities like Charlotte and Burlington that issue ID cards. They unsuccessfully sought an amendment to take it out of the bill.

“We provide such IDs (in Charlotte), and it’s not a driver’s license, it’s identification of who that person reports they are,” said Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat. He said that ID helps police. “I don’t want to vote on something that’s going to undermine the safety of my family and my neighborhood.”

But Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican and former bail bondsman, said local government IDs help illegal immigrants avoid prosecution. He cited his own experiences chasing bail jumpers in Texas.

“We chased this individual for two years and finally caught him in Brownsville,” Apodaca said. “In his pocket, he had six different IDs with six different names. When we ran the different names, we came up with three or four sets of felonies that he’d failed to appear for.”

A final provision in the bill is unrelated to immigration. It would direct the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to stop issuing waivers exempting food stamp recipients from federal work requirements – meaning some recipients could lose their benefits.

Backers of that provision say it would push unemployed people on food stamps to look for work, but some Democrats said it would hurt the unemployed.

“We are really hampering and needlessly harming our poorest and most vulnerable residents when they are already down, when we could manage any abuse of these benefits in a much narrower way,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, a Rocky Mount Democrat.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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