At a time when many states are adopting policies that harness immigrant’s social and economic contributions, elected officials in North Carolina are advancing anti-immigrant legislation that could have sweeping implications for all state residents. The state legislature recently passed H.B. 318, misleadingly titled as the “Protect North Carolina Workers Act.” The bill contains the following provisions which have raised serious concerns from immigration advocates, civil rights groups, and local law enforcement:

  • The bill invalidates consular documents as acceptable forms of identification.
    Government officials will no longer be able to accept documents such as foreign passport, some forms of municipal ID’s, or photo identification cards created by some cities and local groups in North Carolina. As Captain Chad Slaughter of the Burlington Police Department said, this provision could lead to citizens unnecessarily being put behind bars because “If we limit the forms of identification that police can accept, the number of regular citizens who are booked into jail for prints and pictures will increase.”
  • The bill ends existing local policies limiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests.
    The so-called “sanctuary” provision of the bill would restrict local communities from limiting their compliance with immigration detainers, even though federal rulings have found that detainers are not mandatory. This undermines community safety, as the overuse of detainers hinders immigrant communities from assisting local law enforcement.
  • The bill would extend E-Verify requirements.
    H.B. 318 expands E-Verify, an online system that checks the legal status of workers in the U.S., to all state government employers, including contractors and subcontractors. As Rev. Curtis Gatewood noted, this provision could push undocumented immigrants into an unregulated, underground economy: “Even if we do the E-Verify, it does not, in fact, do what it purported to do… It will only make more people go underground and become more vulnerable to abuse.”

H.B. 318 is already having a chilling effect among immigrants in North Carolina. Rubio Franco Quiroz, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, illustrated the distrust this bill is creating between immigrant communities and local law enforcement. She expressed concerns that if her brother, also a DACA recipient, were to not have his documents present that law enforcement “aren’t  going to take his word for it… They’re just going send him to immigration. They don’t care.”

The bill is now awaiting Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature. McCrory would be wise to reflect on the vital economic contributions undocumented immigrants make to North Carolina’s economy and the heavy cost burdened on other states and local communities that have pursued anti-immigrant legislation before enacting this piece of legislation.

Photo by OZinOH.