The newly formed House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy met for the second time in as many months on Wednesday, January 25, 2012.
The focus of the most recent Committee hearing was squarely on how much unauthorized immigrants cost the taxpayers of North Carolina. Various state agencies (Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles, Department of Health and Human Services) presented information primarily about the restrictions already in place that prevent unauthorized immigrants from accessing state government services. The overall take-away from the two-hour hearing was that most unauthorized immigrants are not eligible and therefore do not receive most government services and that the few benefits they do get are those required by Federal law.
While lawmakers remained concerned about the costs of unauthorized immigrants, a press release from the Latin American Coalition on the positive impact of immigrants in North Carolina stated the following:
“Unauthorized immigrants in North Carolina, in households that potentially include U.S. Citizens, paid $317.7 million in state and local taxes in 2010. These taxes, vital sources of revenue for the state of North Carolina, include state income taxes, property taxes (even if they rent), and sales taxes. North Carolina ranks 10th in the nation as a state that receives the most tax revenue from households headed by unauthorized immigrants.”
The Select Committee met for the first time in early December, 2011. During the first meeting, staff from the research division of the North Carolina General Assembly reviewed past immigration-related legislation, including pending and introduced legislation from the 2011 legislative session. Sheriffs from Alamance and Rockingham Counties also were invited to speak about the 287(g) Program (one of ICE’s top initiatives) and Secure Communities (a deportation program that relies on partnerships between federal, state and local law enforcement). The sheriffs used their time to speak in glowing terms of the success of the programs, vehemently denying that any kind of racial profiling occurs and insisting that the programs only contribute to helping law enforcement do their job more effectively. Public comment was not permitted.
Prior to last month’s Committee hearing, the North Carolina Council of Churches issued a press release reiterating its opposition to legislation which would “harm families, waste vital state resources, and make our state less hospitable to vulnerable people” and which would result in increased criminalization of immigrants in North Carolina.
The Select Committee was formed in September of 2011 and is made up of 12 House members (8 Republicans and 4 Democrats). It is charged with examining the State’s role in immigration policy, including the effectiveness of laws already in place as well as best practices in other states. The Committee has the opportunity to submit an interim report on their results (which can include proposed legislation) on or before May 1 and is responsible for submitting a final report by the end of the year.
The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, February 29 at 1 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building. Members of the public can attend, but it is unclear whether they will be allowed to comment.
–Megan Nerz, Volunteer Program Associate for Immigration