News: CJ Exclusives

Immigration Committee Makes Few Recommendations

Legislative panel urges Washington to step up enforcement

A special legislative committee set up to look at the state’s role in immigration policy is telling the federal government to do its job, and not much more. The committee on Thursday adopted its official report to the 2013 General Assembly. No recommendations for state legislative actions were forthcoming.

Hector Vaca, Charlotte director of Action NC, which advocates for a number of issues including immigration reform, said he was pleasantly surprised.

“We didn’t really expect for them to say, ‘leave it all to the feds,’” Vaca said. “So for us, that’s a positive. It’s showing that they’re recognizing that the power to decide immigration laws should be in the hands of the federal government.”

The committee did recommend that the 2013 General Assembly pass a number of resolutions concerning immigration. They include:

• A resolution encouraging the N.C. congressional delegation to take the lead in introducing legislation revising federal immigration laws.

• A resolution urging the federal government to enforce security along all of the borders of the United States.

• A resolution advocating for wider authority to be delegated to the states so that the states may work more closely with the federal government in enforcing federal immigration laws.

• A resolution advocating for wider authority to be delegated to the states to better serve the employment and labor needs of the states.

The committee also recommended that lawmakers review previously introduced legislation regarding immigration and solicit opinions from people with an interest in the issue.

Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, a legislator who frequently pushes for stricter laws targeting illegal immigrants, noted that the committee’s action didn’t preclude individual lawmakers from pushing immigration legislation. He said he expects to do that during the 2013 session.

Cleveland said he hopes that the General Assembly will revisit a couple of bills he’s supported in the past. Those include one that would prohibit North Carolina police or other government officials from accepting the matricula consular card for identification purposes. Mexican consulates generally issue such cards for Mexican nationals living in the United States.

Another bill Cleveland hopes would gain traction next year is one requiring contractors and subcontractors with municipalities to use the federal E-Verify system when hiring employees.

He also called on Washington to do its job on immigration.

“The federal government should get their act together, which is probably going to be impossible,” Cleveland said. “They haven’t been able to do it to date.”

As a result, Cleveland said, it’s fallen on state governments to fill the void.

“It’s gone to the state levels to try to do the best that they can,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland went further, saying that legal residents, not those who are here illegally, should fill jobs in the state.

“We have 230,000 North Carolinians living here legally [who] could use those jobs,” Cleveland said. “Whether they’re flipping burgers or doing whatever, they belong to legal residents, not illegal immigrants.”

Barry Smith is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.