AZ-Style Immigration for North Carolina

After the Supreme Court approved the controversial provision of an Arizona immigration law last year, four House Republicans of the General Assembly of North Carolina, led by Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury, filed the RECLAIM N.C. Act, short for “Reasonable Enactment of Comprehensive Legislation Addressing Immigration Matters in North Carolina”, with comprehensive immigration enforcement measures. This act would combine driving privileges with new restrictions for unauthorized immigrants.

Although the legislation drew sharp criticism from both sides of the immigration issue, there are also several advantages for so called “undocumented aliens” living in North Carolina for a minimum of one year (starting April 1, 2013).

The bill’s concrete provisions are as follows:

  • allow local law-enforcement agencies to check immigration status 
  • provide unauthorized immigrants with a special limited driver’s permit 
  • make it more difficult for unauthorized immigrants in the U.S to get released from jail 
  • bill unauthorized immigrants for prison expenses 
  • make the sale or manufacture of false ID documents a felony in most cases 
  • prohibit cities and counties from doing business with (sub-)contractors that do not use E-Verify, a system that allows employers to verify immigration status 
  • make it harder for unauthorized immigrants to post bail, including for traffic violations 

One of the criticisms refers to the authorization of local law-enforcement agencies to check on the immigration status, because this could lead to racial profiling. The law is based on a law-enforcement officer’s “reasonable suspicion” of an unauthorized immigrant. This raises the question of what an officer would do with such a driver’s permit? What happens to the passengers? The “show me your papers” requirement of the bill seems to be arbitrary.

There are also great advantages for illegal aliens in the U.S. For one, they could get a license and insurance, which hasn’t been possible since 2006 when the government amended the immigration law. Some unauthorized immigrants might be in desperate need of some kind of driver’s permit in order to keep or get a proper job. Although this bill addresses this need in our community for such permits, even immigration attorneys see a chance for unauthorized immingrants to come out of the dark.

If this bill passes, North Carolina would become the fifth state to grant driving privileges to those who are unable to prove legal residency – joining New Mexico, Washington, Illinois and Utah. California and Maryland are considering similar measures.

Author: Leonie Hochstetter Legal Trainee/Rechtsreferendarin BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

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