Immigration has long been a hot-button political issue in American life, and politicians know they can get the public’s attention when they announce policies that target undocumented immigrants.
In recent months, North Carolina lawmakers have advanced several measures that seem designed to make life more difficult for immigrants in the state. While most of these are directed primarily at undocumented immigrants, they will surely have consequences for immigrants who are here legally if the bills do eventually become law.
Cooperation with ICE
The measure that is getting the most media attention would require local sheriffs to report the immigration status of certain detainees to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation. Currently, this type of reporting is voluntary, although 15 of the state’s 100 counties have chosen to join a program under which they report the detainees to ICE.
This type of policy can mean reporting immigrants who are detained on suspicion of crimes before they have had a chance to defend themselves against criminal charges.
Critics say that by making the reporting mandatory, the bill would prevent local governments from making their own decisions about these matters. Legislators have introduced similar bills several times in the past, but some observers say this bill has a better chance of becoming law than previous bills.
Another proposal would place a 4% tax on wire transfers. This method of payment is a popular way for both documented and undocumented immigrants to send money back to families in their home countries.
Yet another bill would place restrictions on a form of identification used by some immigrants. Because North Carolina law won’t allow many immigrants to use a state driver’s license or other forms of official identification, many immigrants use so-called community identification cards, such as those created by the Faith Action ID Network.
The new proposal would prohibit immigrants from using these cards in certain legal proceedings.
It’s not clear if any of these bills will ever become law. Still, they seem to indicate that the legal outlook is getting tougher for immigrants in North Carolina. It’s important for immigrants to learn about their rights and options.