The North Carolina Influencer Series

Here’s what you wanted us to ask NC leaders about immigration, and their responses

Shendele Melchor, left, Kenny Salazar, center and Alexa Salazar, right, joined other Charlotte residents and immigrants in a show of unity at Marshall Park following the September 2017 announcement that DACA was being rescinded.
Shendele Melchor, left, Kenny Salazar, center and Alexa Salazar, right, joined other Charlotte residents and immigrants in a show of unity at Marshall Park following the September 2017 announcement that DACA was being rescinded. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

We asked readers what questions they had for NC leaders about immigration policy. Here’s the question they wanted us to ask the 60 NC Influencers: “Do you support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients? Why or why not?”

Here is a sampling of responses from the NC Influencers:

Ric Elias, CEO Red Ventures

“Yes. Using the lives and futures of innocent young people to further partisan agendas defies common decency. Children who were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own are not criminals and they deserve the chance to pursue the American dream. DACA recipients who work at Red Ventures, our Golden Door Scholars, and the countless others like them across the US, make our country stronger. When you put partisan politics aside and see this for what it is – a human rights issue – then it becomes clear that our failure to act on their behalf isn’t just a legislative failure, it’s a moral failure.”

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Ric Elias

Jim Martin, NC governor 1985-1993

“Yes, but limited to those who have previously demonstrated love of America with honorable contributions. Many Democrats strongly favor blanket citizenship for all illegal aliens as a major resource of votes for Democrats. Republicans strongly oppose blanket citizenship for illegal aliens for the same reason.”

Pamela Davies, President Queens University of Charlotte

“I absolutely, unequivocally support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. The DACA students I know on our campus are driven, hard-working and committed to doing their part to make the world a better place. They would be a credit to our country as legal citizens.”

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Pamela Davies

Dr. Virginia Hardy, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at ECU

“Yes. Being that most were brought here as children, America is the only home many of them know. They work, pay taxes, go to school, serve in the military, and contribute to their communities. They have earned the right and privilege to have the opportunity to obtain full citizenship.”

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Dr. Virginia Hardy

Kit Cramer, CEO Asheville Area Chamber

“I support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients for the primary reason that we need their talent. Nationwide, we have about 1.3 million Dreamers. Collectively they earn $19.9 billion in total income each year and contribute more than $3 billion in taxes. They were brought here as children. We have already invested in their education. We should develop a way to allow them to become full-fledged, productive citizens.”

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Kit Cramer

Hugh McColl, CEO of Bank of America, 1983-2001

“Yes, I’d favor a pathway to citizenship that did not exceed five years and required learning to speak, read and write English.”

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Hugh McColl

Pat McCrory, Governor, 2013-2017, Charlotte mayor 1995-2009

“As long as immigration enforcement is implemented through strong border protection and DACA recipients get in line behind those trying to gain entry legally from throughout world.”

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Pat McCrory

Lew Ebert, CEO North Carolina Chamber

“North Carolina is home to more than 27,000 individuals in the DACA program, making our state the seventh-most populous of young, undocumented immigrants in the nation. Congress and the administration must come together to find a solution to protect the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants protected by DACA. Failing to do so would be detrimental to North Carolina’s future competitiveness.”

Ashley Christensen, Chef, restaurateur, food activist, philanthropist

“I do, because I believe that diversity makes us stronger. Additionally Dreamers have been raised with all of the expectations and responsibilities of American citizenship already; they are not going to tip the scale with regard to resources (jobs, taxes, etc.) since they’re already engaged in said resources.”

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Ashley Christensen

Clayton Wilcox, Superintendent Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

“Yes. I believe that those who have come to this country, completed a level of education, and lived lawfully while they were here deserve a clear and attainable pathway to citizenship.”

Paul Cuadros, Executive director, UNC Scholars’ Latino Initiative. Associate professor, UNC School of Media and Journalism

“Yes. Recipients of DACA, who were brought here unauthorized as children without their knowledge or consent, have been granted by the United States a special status that protects them from deportation and allows them to live in the country. To become eligible for DACA status, recipients have passed an FBI background check, had biometric information provided to the FBI, other personal information gathered, and gone through all the steps of the program to qualify. The program is seen as a bridge to allow recipients to live in the only country they have known until Congress can decide on how it wants to further process these individuals. Recipients are among the best and brightest in many communities, and complied with all laws and regulations the US has demanded of them, and have tremendous promise for productive and contributing lives in the US. DACA was a promise from the United States to these individuals that if they complied with its rules they could see a pathway to a greater and more stable status. The United States is a great country. The United States is a compassionate country, one with a rich tradition of accepting immigrants from all parts of the world under many conditions, including being unauthorized. The US should fulfill its promise to grant status to DACA recipients and include them into the family of America. DACA recipients have not only earned this status, but will greatly add to our society and life.”

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Paul Cuadros

Bob Page, CEO Replacements, Ltd.

“Absolutely. Immigrants built our country, and young immigrants are key to our future. As has been the case throughout United States history, their hopes, dreams and aspirations create momentum propelling us forward and ultimately making us better as a country. DACA recipients share the American dream of our ancestors.”

Larry Wooten, President, NC Farm Bureau

“Yes there should be a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. These people came to our nation as infants or as young children with their families through no choice of their own. They are Americans except for being born here. They grew up in the United States, were educated here, and are contributing to our nation.”

Bev Perdue, NC governor 2009-2013; Chair and Founder of digiLEARN

“Yes I do. I have met with many of the students who are here because of family decisions. They are educated and committed to this country. They have always believed America and its citizens valued them and saw them as part of the American ‘us.’ Now they have become ‘them,’ despised, unwanted and unvalued, and are horrified that the promise of America for them is phony.”

Frank Emory, law partner, Chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina

“We need to create and apply a clear set of rules for entry on a temporary basis and for qualification for citizenship. I think creating a myriad of exceptions vitiates the rules and causes the confusion we have now.”

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Frank Emory

Cyndee Patterson, President of The Lee Institute

“Yes, these children have been in the US, in most cases, for the majority of their childhood. They have gone to school here and have assimilated into our country. Many of these children are entering college or training in a trade and would become productive members of our society. Sending them back to a country that they don’t know and where they may not have support to me, is not a stance of what I consider American values.”

James Coleman, Duke Law professor and co-director of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Duke

“Yes. These are individuals who were brought into the country without their consent who have lived most of their lives as American citizens. As a group, they have been good residents, they have worked hard, been successful students, and have promising futures if allowed to remain in this country. They have earned the right to an opportunity for citizenship by their long-term conduct. They are more American than any other nationality and deserve an opportunity to make their status legal.”

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James Coleman

Sallie Shuping Russell, former Managing Director, BlackRock Private Equity Partners

“Yes. I think this is imperative. Those young people can be our strongest advocates to other nations about why the U.S. is a great nation. Conversely, if we kick them out of the country where they were raised, we plant seeds of anger, distrust and disillusionment with the promise of America.”

Paul Valone, Grass Roots North Carolina

“I would support a pathway for citizenship only on two conditions: First, that the applicant be free of a history of felonies or violent misdemeanors, and second, that they successfully complete an application for U.S. citizenship within a stipulated period of time.”

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Paul Valone

Michael Marsicano, CEO Foundation For The Carolinas

“Absolutely. Every bone in the bodies of these young people is American. The vast majority of Americans and members of Congress agree. The development of a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients is being held hostage by other political disagreements on immigration. The time has come to create the pathway now and work through other immigration disagreements separately.”

Mark Jewell, President, North Carolina Association of Educators

“Yes. Dreamers are young, aspiring Americans – part of our communities. They are students who deserve every opportunity to learn, educators who inspire children each day, members of the military, our neighbors and friends. We must create a realistic path to citizenship for the aspiring citizens who call America home and ensure a fair process that takes into consideration what these new Americans contribute to our country.”

Bob Morgan, CEO Charlotte Chamber

“Yes. These young people want to be Americans and they are here already. We should embrace their diversity and contributions to our society.”

Joan Zimmerman, CEO Southern Shows Inc.

“Yes. For most, this is the only country they have ever known. They are a future workforce.”

Richard Vinroot, law partner, Charlotte mayor 1991-1995

“Yes, because they are de facto citizens now, mostly through no fault of their own, and because it is the moral thing to do.”

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Richard Vinroot

How to participate

Your Voice is an ongoing conversation between readers, the 60 NC Influencers, and policy makers in our state. From now and until Election Day we’re asking readers what matters most to them about a particular policy issue. After readers weigh in online each week, we’ll hold a Your Voice vote to see which reader’s response resonates most. Then, we’ll put that question to the NC Influencers. To participate just click on the Your Voice link embedded in every Influencer series story.

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