While not on the Republican’s “100 Days” 10-point legislative agenda when they swept the General Assembly in November, immigration reform still proved to be a major issue in both the House and Senate. In between heated legislative battles over subjects ranging from taxes to tanning beds, several bills were put forth in an effort to curtail the growing illegal immigration problem in North Carolina.
In all, six bills were considered but only three made it to the governor’s desk. Of those, one has already been vetoed and one has been signed into law. The fate of the other bills is yet to be determined.
Stalled in the NC House
In the final days of the session before they reconvene in July, the Legislature ratified over two hundred bills. Yet even at this rate, many pieces of legislation failed to make it through, including the following immigration bills.
HB 33 Consular Documents Not Acceptable as ID
This relatively unobtrusive bill prohibits any government agency or official from accepting the matricula consular (an ID card issued by the Mexican government regardless of legal status) as legal proof of identification over fears of forgery or counterfeiting. Legal visitors or residents in the United States are already issued official government identification, making consular identification documents unnecessary.
SB 205 No Benefits for Illegal Aliens
This bill reaffirms that illegal immigrants are not eligible for state or federal benefits, listing eleven different forms of identification to prove legal residency in order to receive benefits. It does note, however, that this legislation does not limit benefits where residency is not required.
SB 303 Limited Duration Licenses
Adding another symbol to North Carolina’s licenses, red borders or some similar indicator would be added to licenses for individuals over 21 who are in the state for a limited duration of time. The indicator will allow public officials to more effectively enforce limited stays in the state.
The following few immigration bills were ratified and sent to the governor’s desk.
HB 36 Employers and Local Government Must Use E-Verify
Perhaps the most ambitious, and at the same time most tenuous, immigration bill of the session, this bill requires all businesses of 25 employees or more to use the federal E-Verify program to ensure the legal status of their employees. Exceptions are made for small businesses and seasonal workers. Originally intended simply to require government contractors to certify the status of their employees, this legislation went through six revisions before its final passage in both chambers. Recently signed into law by Perdue, sections of this bill will become effective October 1, 2011 with the final 25 employee or more provision taking effect July 1, 2013.
HB 351 Restore Confidence in Government
Another key bill that almost did not make it to ratification, SB 351 requires an individual to show government-issued photo identification in order to cast a vote. Framed by Republicans as a much needed measure to reduce voter fraud, it will also pose a large challenge to illegal immigrants trying to cast a vote. Finally ratified, the bill went to the governor’s desk, where it was eventually vetoed. It remains up to the General Assembly to determine whether a veto override is possible when they re-convene in July.
HB 744 Safe Students Act
Originally intended to track the legal status of incoming students, the bill initially required schools determine the immigration status of children who are not citizens. Though the legal status of children is not intended to be a barring mechanism for education, enough opponents spoke out against the provision within the bill to have it struck out. The final bill was radically altered to simply require a proof of date of birth and of immunization. This bill has yet to be signed or vetoed by Gov. Perdue.
For the Future
Perdue has already vetoed one immigration reform law and signed another. At this point it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not the rest will fall under Perdue’s veto stamp or signature. While some forward progress has been made on this issue, much more will need to be accomplished before our state immigration laws effectively curb illegal immigration. With three bills still sitting in the House, legislators have the momentum to keep moving forward, all they must do is maintain the stamina to see it through.