Immigration is a hot button issue to most people these days. It is also a hot potato for politicians, with numerous factions on both sides passing the buck on what to do and who should be responsible. What everyone agrees on, however, is that illegal immigration is a problem. Each day thousands of illegal immigrants cross into America without permission and with the objective of staying and working. Many of them are making their way to North Carolina to live and work.
The typical illegal immigrant is a male between the ages of 25-40; he is a blue-collar worker in his home country; speaks little or no English; and must borrow the money to pay the human smugglers to get him across the border. He leaves a job that pays $1 an hour to come to a job that pays as much as $4.50 an hour. He works in construction, landscaping, and as a domestic worker. The job has often been arranged before he gets here because of his network of family and friends that preceded him.
Those who arrive on our soil without legal permission live in apartments, houses and mobile homes with other illegal immigrants. They wire millions of dollars back to their families each year and live frugally on the remaining amount.
Their children are born in public hospitals . Children born to illegal aliens are called “anchor babies” because under the 1965 Immigration Act, they act as an anchor that allows the illegal alien mother and eventually a host of other relatives to become permanent U.S. residents .
They get medical treatment at emergency rooms, creating an added burden to the state’s medical welfare program. Additionally, many diseases once controlled have resurfaced. Since illegal aliens do not receive health screening before entering the United States , as required of legal immigrants, they are bringing many diseases into America . Diseases such as tuberculosis and measles, which were almost immunized out of existence, have become another problem.
Their children attend public schools, requiring the funding of bilingual programs and de-funding of programs for students legally in the state. Most only complete the eighth grade. The majority of the children will work in the same jobs as their parents.
For the most part, they are law-abiding people, working long hours and keeping a very low profile. They are deeply religious and family oriented. It should be said that most undocumented workers are in North Carolina only to support their families back home, and probably would not be here if the benefits were not greater than the risks.
The federal government is at a loss for a solution. Ideas are tossed around frequently, but nothing is ever done to remedy the problem. The current federal budget includes money to increase border patrol and customs enforcement personnel, which means nothing when more than 600 funded positions remain unfilled.
Each illegal immigrant who is found is issued a court date and told to appear at a specified time to begin deportation proceedings. This “catch and release” program results in a 90% failure to appear rate. There simply isn’t enough manpower or money to handle the problem on the federal level.
There is very little individual states can do to stop illegal immigrants from coming into the United States . That power is vested in the federal government, and Congress has specifically limited what the state’s can and cannot do about allowing foreign nationals into each state.
There are, however, things that state government could do to make North Carolina less appealing to the illegal immigrants.
Restrict In-state Tuition to Legal Residents
In the 2005 session of the General Assembly, a bill was introduced to allow tuition assistance to all students in North Carolina , regardless of status. The intent was to devise a plan where illegal immigrants or the children of illegal immigrants, who had satisfied certain requirements, could attend public universities and community colleges at the in-state tuition rate.
The provisions for assistance required that anyone who graduated from a North Carolina high school, had resided in the state for a certain amount of time, and promised to seek legal status, could pay the same tuition as the children of legal, taxpaying citizens. Thankfully, the measure failed.
State funded higher education is a benefit reserved for legal residents and their children. Students attending state-supported universities from out-of-state are charged the full price for their education (even though they enter the state legally) unless awarded a scholarship. To allow illegal residents the benefit of in-state tuition would be to give them something they have not earned by becoming American citizens, and additionally, would be unfair to those who move from out-of-state and have no option but to pay out-of-state tuition.
Reform Drivers License Requirements
North Carolina is one of the easiest states in the country to get a driver’s license. Showing a pay stub with a Social Security number is the only proof the Division of Motor Vehicles requires for citizenship. Proof of actual identity can also be satisfied with a foreign passport. Once a person has a driver’s license they can travel throughout the country, pass through security, get a job, and receive many benefits that come with a government ID.
By restricting driver’s licenses to legal residents, North Carolina would play an active role in securing our roads, our state, and preventing individuals who wish to harm our nation from boarding planes.
Requirements for a driver’s license should no longer be met with foreign identification, unless accompanied by the proper immigration documents proving legal status. Additionally, the General Assembly should limit driver’s licenses to only those who can provide actual proof of their Social Security numbers.
Enforce State Tax Penalties Against Companies who Employ Undocumented Workers
The North Carolina Tax Code allows for penalties against companies or individuals that fail to pay taxes on employees, including those who fail to report wages paid or with hold appropriate taxes. Not once in 2005 was a North Carolina company penalized for employing undocumented workers.
In this instance, the state should enforce current laws. There are caveats that protect those who, in good faith, rely on false documentation when hiring a worker. But there are many employers, especially in the construction or agricultural industries, who pay wages in cash and never file the proper reports.
If more companies were penalized, then the instances of hiring illegal workers would diminish, thus limiting the opportunities for illegal immigrants.
Deputize Local Authorities Statewide to Take Part in Immigration Enforcement
Congresswoman Sue Myrick has already done in Mecklenburg County what should be done statewide. 287(g) programs offer federal certification to local authorities to participate in the deportation process. In addition to linking federal immigration records with local arrest records, this allows local officials to make sure that illegal immigrants who commit any crime anywhere are not released back onto the streets.
Before the legislation became law, if someone was arrested for drinking and driving, the arresting officer was not able to search for federal or immigrant warrants. Since last year, and thanks in part to Congresswoman Myrick’s amendment, local law enforcement officers can now protect North Carolina citizens by keeping repeat offenders and first time offenders, who are in the state illegally. from roaming the streets.
The next piece in this law enforcement puzzle is to allow every municipality and county to start the deportation process for those arrested within their jurisdiction. This would ensure that offenders could be deported as quickly as possible.
Congresswoman Myrick is also currently working to get an immigration court established in North Carolina . If that were done, then the deportation process would be even faster. For now, however, each county should be allowed to model the 287(g) program started in Mecklenburg County .
Link Renewal of State Industrial Licenses to the Employment of Legal Residents.
As with state tax laws, there are industrial licensing procedures that many industries must obtain. Cosmetic salons, for one, must have a yearly renewal to operate. Part of the inspection process should be proving that all employees and operators are legal. Additionally, any industry that must regularly renew should be made to offer proof that they have not employed undocumented workers during the licensing period.
Many workers from Asia work in beauty salons. Many workers from Mexico and South America work in the construction industry. There are other industries as well. If their renewals included employment information, it would add another bar against illegal immigration.
Restrict the Perks of Residency to Residents
Voting in North Carolina has been a privilege of citizens since the state was formed. There are many such benefits to legal residency, some of which have been discussed already. The problem with citizen benefits is that not all beneficiaries are legal residents. Simply reforming the voter registration requirements and establishing voting safeguards, such as voter ID at the polls, would ensure that illegal immigrants would get the message that they must enter the state legally and gain lawful citizenship before they can participate in the electoral process.
North Carolina is a state of immigrants, as is America . Legal immigration provides a fresh workforce and new ideas. Those immigrants who have taken the legal path to come to America should not be insulted by lax enforcement of laws regarding illegal immigrants.
We currently put out the welcome mat for anyone who wants to move to North Carolina , regardless of status. Establishing and enforcing regulations meant to encourage legal immigration can only help. The current drain on the economy and the lowering of wages by the presence of so many illegal immigrants must be stopped and reversed.
The federal government has not passed a workable solution. It is up to North Carolina to do everything possible to limit the influx of immigrants. With our neighboring state’s getting more stringent with their illegal population, North Carolina must also become tough or continue to be a safe-harbor for those whose mere presence is a violation of law.