NC Governor’s Mansion Site of Persistent Protests

Protests_BetterRALEIGH—Hispanic residents and their supporters have been protesting outside the North Carolina governor’s mansion most evenings this month in hopes of persuading Pat McCrory to veto a bill still on his desk from the General Assembly session.

The “Protect North Carolina Workers” legislation must be acted upon before Friday night or it will become law without McCrory’s signature.

The bill would prevent government officials or police from accepting identification cards issued by the Mexican consulate or by other consulates to affirm someone’s identity. ID cards issued by local governments or outside organizations also are unacceptable.

The bill also seeks to negate “sanctuary city” policies that some local governments in North Carolina carry out.

McCrory hasn’t commented publicly specifically about the bill but is opposed to sanctuary cities.

– Associated Press

NC Lawmakers Debate Granting Driving Priveleges to Undocumented Immigrants

immigration-immigrant-border-security-genericRALEIGH—State lawmakers are battling over whether or not to allow some legal driving privileges for illegal immigrants.

This is a long debated issue that divides members of the same party.

For 90 minutes on Tuesday morning- state legislators went back and forth over whether or not North Carolina should grant legal driving permits to undocumented immigrants.

“I encourage you to think about it.  Think about it because we’re doing is deciding whether or not we are going to hold people accountable or whether we are going to continue with the status quo.  And if you’ll step away from the politics of it and look at the logic of it, you’ll see it is the right thing to do,” said Rep. Harry Warren, a Rowan County Republican.

State Representative Harry Warren has been working on this proposal for years, delicately trying to balance between creating a way to keep track and oversee the immigrant population, but not encourage illegal immigrants to migrate to North Carolina.

But some lawmakers say that is a balance that can’t be found.

“If it is considered a positive in the illegal community, which to me is exactly why we should not do it.  We should not be encouraging, we should not be endorsing, we should not be accepting illegal immigration in any way,” said Rep. Bert Jones, a Rockingham County Republican.

Under House Bill 328, undocumented immigrants could get a restricted driving permit if they undergo fingerprinting and background checks. That permit would allow them to legally be on the roads in North Carolina, if they pass the required tests by the DMV.

The NC Sheriff’s Association has not taken a position on the issue, but one sheriff, Rockingham County’s Sam Page, says he thinks this permit is a bad idea.

“Basically this law would allow people who are in our country illegally, who cant legally work to give them privilege to operate on our streets and highways,” said Page.

But for immigrants who support the legislation, like Maudia Melendez who is a legal citizen, she says  her community is looking for a way to stop breaking the law.

“Right now we have people who are driving out there, not because they want to break the law.  It is because the law deterred them from going to the DMV and getting a driver’s license,” said Melendez.

There are multiple other provisions in the bill, including making it a felony to create a false ID card and stopping municipalities from creating their own form of immigrant ID. But it is the permit, that is dividing lawmakers, the bill sponsor says he doesn’t believe a permit would be a radical change.

“There are not people in Honduras saying, ‘God if I could just get to North Carolina I get a driver’s license.’  No.  It is the opportunity to work,” said Rep. Warren.

The committee adjourned without taking a vote on the bill. It has not yet been scheduled for its next consideration.

– Loretta Boniti

Republicans Waging War Against Obama’s Immigration Plan

WASHINGTON — In Washington, Republicans are waging a battle against President Obama’s immigration plan.

House lawmakers passed a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that blocks the president’s immigration initiatives.

House Republicans, strengthened by a bigger majority, leveled a major attack against President Obama’s immigration plan on Wednesday.

The House voted to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security while blocking the president’s recent executive action on immigration.

DHS is the agency responsible for immigration enforcement. Its funding expires at the end of February.

GOP lawmakers inserted amendments in the nearly $40 billion spending bill that roll back the president’s order to shield about five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Republicans, including Congressman Richard Hudson, say the president’s executive action is illegal.

“I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to rein in the president illegal activity when it comes to rewriting immigration law, and these amendments will do just that,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, 8th District.

Another amendment reverses President Obama’s 2012 initiative aimed at protecting immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children, so-called “dreamers.”

Meanwhile, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of putting homeland security funding at risk at a time of high alert. That’s following the recent deadly terrorists attacks in Paris.

“You think it would’ve heightened the urgency to pass a homeland security bill. But the Republicans still say no, still say no to passing a clean bill, unless, unless they can be a menace, do menace to immigration,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

But Hudson says the legislation is legitimate.

“We have the largest border security force we’ve ever had in our history. We fully fund FEMA. This is a good appropriations bill that funds our priorities,” said Hudson.

The White House says President Obama would veto any legislation that undermines his immigration plan. But the president may not get the chance. The legislation seems unlikely to get enough votes in the Senate to make it to the president’s desk.

– Geoff Bennett

McCrory ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Impact of Immigration Reform

RALEIGH — After President Barack Obama’s address on immigration reform, Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement criticizing the move.

It reads:

“With this latest executive order, President Obama is making new law by bypassing Congress. I’m already discussing with other governors a long-term solution to immigration reform as well as an appropriate legal response to this unconstitutional overreach of the White House. North Carolina is not a border state, but it’s impacted by illegal immigration. I’m extremely concerned about the potentially negative impact of this executive order on our public schools, health services and public safety.”


President Obama Unveils New Immigration Plan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama addressed the nation Thursday night to unveil his new immigration plan.

His immigration accountability executive action will crack down on illegal immigration at the border. It would also mean cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants as well.

Under the President’s plan, as many as 5 million people in the country illegally would be spared from deportation for three years and made eligible for work permits.

Undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and have children who are American citizens will be allowed to stay once they pass a background check.

“You can come out of the shadows and get right to work,” said Obama.

The action would also streamline the deportation of criminals by moving them to the top of the deportation priority list, falling in line with his focus to deport felons and not families. The centerpiece of the president’s action; however, is the process for certain undocumented immigrants to gain temporary protection from being deported.

The plan does not include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants or provide access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable—especially those who may be dangerous,” said Obama.

The action would have those that qualify to start paying taxes, and they would be allowed to stay in the country for at least three years without fear of deportation.

The executive actions are sure to spark battle between the White House and GOP lawmakers, who say President Obama is acting beyond his authority. But the president said history is on his side.

“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill,” said Obama.

A bipartisan immigration reform bill did pass the Senate last year, but the Republican-led House never voted on it.

– Geoff Bennett

President Obama To Take Executive Action On Immigration

CHARLOTTE — President Obama is expected to announce plans to issue an executive action on immigration.

That will be during a prime time speech tonight.

The executive actions could spare as many as 5 million immigrants, who are here in the US illegally from deportation.

The White House released a photo of the president working on tonight’s address to the nation.

His plan to bypass Congress is a controversial move that has riled Republican leaders who say he is overstepping his constitutional bounds.

It’s also coming under fire from those who want a more extensive overhaul.

The president had this to say – in a video posted on Facebook – ultimately saying, congress is taking too long to act.

“What I’m going to be laying out is the things I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”

The president is expected to sign those executive orders Friday.

His speech begins at 8 p.m. tonight.

– Becky Bereiter

Gov. McCrory Addresses Border Concerns Facing NC

RALEIGH—Gov. Pat McCrory spoke about the effect of border control on North Carolina at a press conference in Raleigh on Tuesday.

The governor started off by saying people need to remember soldiers serving overseas and North Carolina needs to do more to help families who have lost family members who were fighting overseas.

When addressing the border issues facing North Carolina, Gov. McCrory said 1,200 of unaccompanied children have already been placed in the state and that number is expected to grow.

The governor said state and local government officers are not receiving any information about where the children currently are right now. Gov. McCrory said he is concerned about the health of the children—if there are enough resources to treat them and if they are in safe environments.

The governor plans to recommend to the White House for advanced notice of the children being placed in the state. Gov. McCrory is encouraging background checks on the sponsors who accept care for the children and to reduce the waiting time for the children to be processed.

The governor also suggested President Obama and leaders of Congress cancel their vacations to address the issue before they go home.

President Obama pushes Congress on immigration reform

WASHINGTON—President Obama is calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.

From the White House Thursday morning, he urged Democrats and Republicans to to work together to fix what he called “a broken immigration system by the end of the year”.

The President said most people believe that we need to fix the system and a clear majority of Americans think it is the right thing to do. He also said the reform legislation would help our economy.

“If the Senate bill became law over next two decades, our economy would grown by $1.4 trillion more than if we don’t pass the law,” said President Obama.

Earlier this year, Republicans in the House refused to take action on a bill passed by the Senate.

Some of them have objected to amnesty for illegal immigrants and said they would rather take up a series of smaller bills than one large piece of legislation.

Former secretary of Homeland Security calls for immigration reform

RALEIGH — Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is calling for immigration reform.

During the Bipartisan Policy Center’s forum in Raleigh Tuesday, Chertoff urged Congress to take action.

“Match jobs that need to be filled with people who want to fill them,” said Chertoff.

Chertoff told the packed house at North Carolina’s Farm Bureau that he wants Congress to take action and fix immigration reform to allow immigrants to fill jobs that many Americans are not interested in. Chertoff said reform would also benefit U.S. employers as well.

“They’re not jobs that Americans are clamoring to do, whether it’s picking lettuce or cleaning hotel rooms,” said Chertoff.

Just last week North Carolina lawmakers voted to override Gov. McCrory’s veto on legislation allowing farmers to hire immigrant workers for longer periods of time. The legislation extends the period for exemption from E-Verify from 90 days to nine months. Still, some lawmakers feel more action needs to happen.

“If the national Congress doesn’t resolve this fully, it’s going to continue to fall to the states to continue to find interim solutions in our state in a bi-partisan way,” said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.

Chertoff is urging Congress to increase the number of visas that are available and the number of green cards the are available for students. The North Carolina farming community supports his plans.

“I was in the mountains of North Carolina yesterday and the apple growers up there were telling me that they were 40 percent short on workers to pick this year’s apple crop. There’s just not enough labor,” said Larry Wooten, North Carolina’s Farm Bureau president.

Many farmers feel immigrants are crucial to their business.

“They are the life blood of the business. If we don’t have these people, we would be out of business,” said Bert Lemkes, a horticulture business owner in western North Carolina.

Chertoff believes national action would be a win for both immigrant workers and business owners.

Chertoff said immigration reform could be put on the back burner as Congress focuses on the situation in Syria and the budget.

– Julie Fertig

Immigration reform debate pushed back in Congress; advocates take action

CHARLOTTE — While Congress debates the situation in Syria, issues on the home front are getting pushed back.

One of those is immigration reform. Immigration reform advocates are concerned, and they’re taking action.

The Immigration Policy Center says nearly 10 percent of North Carolina workers are foreign born. Many immigration rights advocates say now is the time for change.

Rausel Arista is a community organizer at the Latin American Coalition. He says the tide is turning on the immigration issue.

“Congress has been taking this issue more seriously,” said Arista.

But he now fears the situation in Syria may put the brakes on immigration reform.

“We agree it’s really a big issue inside the country,” said Arista.

Congress is back in session. But with Syria being the hot topic, other issues like immigration reform are being pushed back.

“It is going to be pushed back, and, already, it was a very delicate balance about whether immigration reform could be taken up this year,” said Dr. Gregory Weeks, political science professor at UNC-Charlotte.

Just this June, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill with a 68 to 32 margin.

“The electoral perception by Republicans in particular has changed,” said Weeks.

But the bill hasn’t moved in the Republican-controlled House.

“I think they chose just to get something passed out of the House. Members I’ve spoken to weren’t pleased with it,” said Rep. Robert Pittenger.

“After Syria you’ve got to deal with questions of the federal budget,” said Weeks.

Congress has 39 working days left this year to squeeze in immigration reform.

“It’s conceivable even that it gets pushed back until after the 2014 legislative election,” said Weeks.

Several immigration advocates are hoping to persuade Congress to return to reviewing the issue, by going to Washington to rally legislatures toward reform. The group, which includes many from Charlotte, will leave on Wednesday.

– Vanessa Rojas