Arizona-like Immigration Bill Introduced
In the wake of failed attempts by Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, states and localities have increased their own efforts to enforce current immigration laws and to implement new programs designed to reduce immigration. Many of these efforts have created a more hostile environment toward immigrants, with people – both documented and undocumented – living in fear of harassment, arrest and possible deportation. To read more about the Council’s work on immigration issues, click here. To read our statements about immigration, click here.
Now several bills have been introduced in the 2013 legislature. Most are hostile or punitive towards undocumented immigrants, an attitude that spills over to those who are documented. Here are the primary bills which are under consideration.
HB 786, RECLAIM NC Act, is an omnibus, Arizona-like bill to make life harder for immigrants, especially undocumented ones. As is the case with some other harmful bills this session, this one is wittily named: It’s the “Reasonable Enactment of Comprehensive Legislation Addressing Immigration Matters in North Carolina Act” or “RECLAIM NC Act.”
Among its provisions are the following:
- HB 786 would authorize law enforcement officers to attempt to determine the immigration status of any person detained, arrested, or stopped for any reason. The bill spells out identification documents which a person could use to prove their “lawful presence,” and the effect of this provision would be that all North Carolinians would be wise to carry their “papers” all the time.
- There would be a rebuttable presumption against pretrial release for undocumented immigrants arrested for certain categories of offense: sex offense, violent felony, a driving offense with mandatory license suspension for a first violation, drug offense other than possession, or gang offense. In addition to denying release to immigrants, this provision could also be costly to counties and fill up jails.
- The state would charge any undocumented immigrant convicted of a crime for the actual costs of that person’s incarceration. Not only is this needlessly punitive, but it is not likely to be financially productive. Many undocumented prisoners are not likely to be able to pay and, if they get deported, the chances of recovering costs are even smaller.
- The matricula consular issued by the Mexican government or other similar document could not be used to prove identity or residency in the state. And local government would be prohibited from recognizing such documents.
- Undocumented immigrants would be “required” to apply for a restricted drivers permit. While having undocumented drivers licensed is a good thing – it encourages learning the rules of the road and getting car insurance – the provisions of HB 786 are so burdensome that few undocumented immigrants are likely to take part. Immigrants would be required to admit that they are “not lawfully present,” something that by itself would be enough to get them deported. In addition, an immigrant would be fingerprinted, undergo a criminal background check, and have to prove a year’s residency in NC. The drivers permit would be good for only one year and would have to be renewed annually at a cost of $25, more than six times what citizens pay per year for a regular license. And the license itself would be designed to look so different from a regular license that anyone seeing it would know that its holder was undocumented.
- The state could confiscate and sell vehicles driven by anyone driving without a license, driving with a revoked license, or driving without insurance.
- E-Verify would be required of contractors and subcontractors with local governments and other public entities.
Primary sponsors of HB 786 are Reps. Warren, Jordan, B. Brown, and Collins. It has been reported favorably out of House Judiciary B and is now in House Finance.
HB 118, Consular Documents Not Acceptable as ID, contains the provision in point #4 of HB 786, above. Introduced by Reps. Cleveland, Hager, Millis, and Szoka and assigned to House Judiciary C.
HB 465, No Possession of Firearms/Undocumented Aliens (sic), would make it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to have a firearm, and the firearm would be subject to confiscation. Introduced by Reps. McNeill, Warren, Faircloth, and Ford and assigned to House Judiciary.
Other restrictive immigration bills were summarized in Raleigh Report, March 19. These include:
- HB 141, DACA Beneficiaries/Drivers License Moratorium.
- HB 160, Public Contracts/Illegal Immigrants
- HB 218, No Postsecondary Education/Illegal Aliens (sic),
In addition to these restrictive bills, a few bills more welcoming of immigrants have been introduced. They include the following.
HB 904, In-State Tuition/Some N.C. Immigrant Youth, would authorize in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges for undocumented students who graduated from high school or received a GED in NC, who attended NC schools for at least the last two years before graduation, and who have filed an application to legalize their status or will do so upon becoming eligible to do so. Any information submitted in applying for in-state tuition would be confidential. Introduced by Reps. Luebke, Glazier, Cotham, and C. Graham and referred to House Education.
HB 915, Road Safety Through Drivers License Access. Current law requires a drivers license applicant to have a valid Social Security number. HB 915 would also permit the use of a valid US document showing lawful presence, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or a US or foreign passport. Introduced by Reps. Fisher, Wray, Brisson, and R. Moore, and assigned to House Rules.
SB 622, Drivers Licenses for ITIN Holders, is similar to HB 915 in allowing a drivers license applicant to submit an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead of a Social Security number. It is much more expensive, though, in that it imposes a fee of $50/year for a license issued to an ITIN holder. Regular licenses are billed at a rate of $4/year. Introduced by Sen. McKissick and referred to Senate Rules.
In addition, HB 184, Allow Drivers Licenses for DACA Beneficiaries, was summarized in RR, March 19.
Bill Status – Bills on the Move
HB 298/SB 365, Affordable and Reliable Energy Act, have had a tumultuous two weeks. (The identical bills would repeal the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), which encourages energy efficiency and the production of more electricity from renewable sources.) First, HB 298 was voted on in a committee chaired by the bill’s sponsor, and it was defeated on a recorded vote of 18-13. Environmentalists cheered, along with the sizeable business community which has grown up around renewable energy. But the repeal effort has become the darling of national conservative activists who profess to support free markets, so the Senate Finance Committee took up SB 365 on Wednesday. After amending the original bill, it was given a favorable report on a voice vote which many observers thought was won by the nays. The committee chair refused to put it to a show of hands, which could have been counted with some precision. The amended bill freezes the REPS requirement at its current level (3% of electricity from efficiencies and renewables) rather than letting it rise to 12.5% through this decade as the current law does. Other standards (for solar, hog waste, poultry waste) would be frozen at levels lower than they would be under current law. In addition, all these REPS requirements would end in 2023 unless the General Assembly extended them. SB 365 is now in Senate Commerce.
HB 379/SB 639, Clarify Board of Ag Authority/Plants, give sole authority to prohibit various activities regarding plants to the Board of Agriculture. What the bill really does is to prevent local governments from doing anything to prohibit genetically modified plants within their local jurisdiction. The two bills have been passed in each house.
HB 392, Share Arrest Warrant Status/Public Assistance, as introduced, required county departments of social services to run criminal background checks on applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or food and nutrition benefits in order to verify that the applicant is not a fleeing felon or in violation of probation or parole. As amended, the requirement is the same, but only “to the extent permitted by allocated county and state resources,” and counties would not be required to allocate funds for this purpose. As amended, HB 392 has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 452, 2013 School Safety Act, would have appropriated funds to increase the number of school resource officers, guidance counselors, school psychologists and social workers. Instead, the House removed the funding and added a provision allowing volunteers to serve as school resource officers. The bill also requires panic alarm systems in schools and regular lock-down drills. HB 452 has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate Committee on Education/Higher Education.
HB 589, Voter Identification and Verification Act (VIVA), requiring a voter to show photo ID, has been approved by the House and sent to the Senate, where it is in the Rules Committee.
HB 935, NC Pre-K Changes, has passed second reading in the House and is scheduled for a final vote on Monday evening. The bill lowers eligibility for the Pre-K program to 100% of the Federal Poverty Line and eliminates Limited English Proficiency as an eligibility criterion. Currently the eligibility is about 200% of FPL. (To get a frame of reference, the FPL for a family of three is under $20,000.) Ironically, the National Institute for Early Education Research released a report this week saying that NC’s Pre-K program is one of the best in the nation.
HB 937, Amend Various Firearms Laws, in on the House floor for a vote early next week. It contains provisions we’ve seen in other gun bills, especially an extension of the places where someone can carry a concealed handgun. HB 937 extends it to a locked vehicle in a state government parking lot, a locked compartment in a vehicle on the premises of a community college or public or private college or university, an assembly where an admission fee is charged, and an establishment where alcohol is being sold and consumed.
SB 10, Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act, has been on the move but is now stalled. The bill, which would eliminate several state boards and commissions and summarily end the terms of all members of several others and allow the state’s current leaders to name all replacements, passed the House and Senate in different versions. The primary sticking point between the two was about whether the bill terminated the positions of several “special judges” who travel the state, circuit-rider-like, to assist local judges. A conference committee was appointed and reached an agreement that it thought would fly in both houses. Surprisingly, the House rejected the conference report on a unanimous vote. In a matter that was not in either the House or Senate version, the conference committee slipped the following language into the provision killing the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change: “No State appropriations or departmental receipts shall be used by State agencies for the development, promotion, dissemination, or implementation of a statewide climate change action plan or adaptation strategy, unless such activities are specifically authorized by the General Assembly.”
SB 201, Allow Hunting with Silencers, has been passed by the Senate and is now in the House Agriculture Committee.
SB 306, Capital Punishment/Amendments, which would repeal the last traces of the Racial Justice Act and make it easier for the state to return to the use of the death penalty, has been passed by the Senate and is now in the House Judiciary B.
SB 325, Wake County School Board Districts, has passed the Senate and is now in House Elections. This bill has the General Assembly using its clout to intervene in a local issue. The Wake School Board has been the subject of highly partisan non-partisan elections over the past four years. (These elections are officially non-partisan, but have become highly partisan in practice.) The Board had a slim Republican majority for two years. An intense campaign two years ago returned it to a Democratic majority. SB 325 would scrap all nine of the current districts, create two regional districts each covering half the county, and draw seven new districts. Each voter would vote in two races, one large regional district and one smaller local district. In addition, elections would be moved from odd-numbered years to even. Supporters argue that the bill would produce higher voter turnout if held in years with more high-profile races (US Congress, Governor, President, General Assembly). That doesn’t explain the need to redraw districts, and opponents warn that gerrymandered school board districts could unfairly alter political power in Wake County.
SB 337, NC Public Charter School Board, was withdrawn from committee this week and scheduled for a vote by the full Senate next Tuesday. S337 would create a separate governance structure for charter schools, which means that the state Board of Education would no longer have oversight of the state’s network of charters.
SB 374, NC Public Schools Budget Flexibility Act, has been given a favorable report by the Senate Education Committee and re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Comm. Advocates for quality public education are deeply concerned that one part of this bill’s “flexibility” is that it does away with maximum class size and instead gives local school boards “maximum flexibility to use allotted teacher positions to maximize student achievement.”
SB 489, Consumer Finance Act Amendments, would increase the maximum loan amounts, interest rates and fees on consumer finance loans in NC. Specifically the bill would increase the maximum loan from $10,000 to $15,000, extend the 30% interest rate on loan amounts up to $5,000, raise rates from 18% to 24% on loan amounts between $5,000 and $10,000, and add late fees. These loans are different from payday loans. They cover larger loans and have lower rates. But they still trap people in recurring debt. SB 489 has passed second reading in the Senate and will be up for a final vote next week.
SB 530, Prohibit E-Cigarette Sales to Minors. While this bill would seem to be a worthwhile one, our friends at the NC Alliance for Health point out that nothing in current law exempts e-cigarettes from the definition of “tobacco products,” which cannot be sold to minors. This bill would specifically exempt e-cigs from that definition and could open the door for confusion by treating e-cigs and dissolvables differently from other tobacco products (all of which are nicotine-delivery systems). The bill has been given a favorable report by the Senate Committee on Health Care and referred to Senate Judiciary I.
SB 594, Require Drug Testing/Work First Benefits, has been passed by the Senate and is now in House Judiciary C. In the current version, Work First applicants and recipients would be required to have a drug test, which they would have to pay for. (The cost would be refunded if the person tested negative.) Someone who tested positive would be ineligible for Work First for a year unless s/he completes a substance abuse program and tests negative. Applicants and recipients will be told that they can avoid drug testing by not applying for Work First assistance.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, chair of Senate Rules Committee, on making redistricting nonpartisan, something supported by a bi-partisan majority in the House: “We’ve waited 140 years to have this (redistricting power). I’m not ready to give away what we fought so hard to get.”
Rep. Michele Presnell, asked by a constituent if she would be comfortable with a prayer to Allah before a legislative session, emailed this reply: “No, I do not condone terrorism.”
Thanks to our colleagues at the NC ACLU, NC Justice Center, Covenant with NC’s Children. Action for Children NC, and Center for Responsible Lending for their legislative reports, on which parts of this Raleigh Report are based.