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North Carolina Anti-Immigrant Movement Defeated By Veto Override

Imagine 2050 Staff • Sep 05, 2013

In a powerful blow to the anti-immigrant movement, the North Carolina legislature voted Tuesday to weaken E-Verify and consider driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Grassroots organizations like the Latin American Coalition and the NC Dream Team fought hard for a bill that would benefit all residents of North Carolina – no matter their citizenship status. As a result, the state House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override the governor’s veto and make Reclaim NC law.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R)

Reclaim NC gets us closer to unity around immigration, and a Republican legislature, despite the efforts of the anti-immigrant movement, is leading the way. The bill expands exceptions to E-Verify, revealing strong bipartisan – especially Republican – opposition to the federal program. Reclaim NC also creates a process to study and consider temporary driving privileges for undocumented immigrants along with enforcement measures.

This reform bill was passed by the same government that earlier approved sweeping voter suppression legislation and added anti-abortion clauses to a motorcycle safety bill. NC Fire and NC Listen, the state’s main anti-immigrant groups, frantically tried to block the veto override. Their opposition to the bill reveals how far the anti-immigrant movement will go to derail anything that makes life easier for immigrants and their families. NC legislators rightly disregarded their divisive and extremist influence.

This bill is a real opportunity to consider some forward thinking measures that would make North Carolina safer and more united. By considering a driving privilege card, it opens the door to practical legislation to increase road safety and prevent immigrants from being thrown into detention simply for having a taillight out.

The law also limits the reach of E-Verify, an error-ridden federal program intended to verify a potential employee’s eligibility to work. The state’s agricultural interests supported broader exceptions to E-Verify so crops could be harvested. E-Verify is damaging not only to the state’s economy, but also to families with undocumented parents and to citizens who are barred from working because of widespread glitches in the system. By limiting the reach of E-Verify, and creating a committee to study driver’s licenses, North Carolina has begun to improve the economic vitality of the state and consider ways to humanely address a broken immigration system.

Although the bill isn’t perfect, is it a significant step in the right direction. Not all of the opportunities created by the bill are good ones. North Carolina has to engage in a robust discussion, and could learn from states that tried to import legislation that discriminated against its residents. Its passage represents the state’s refusal to capitulate to anti-immigrant groups like NC Fire and NC Listen. By supporting the Reclaim NC, the North Carolina government has put the discussion back in the hands of the people who live in the state, not special interest groups connected to white nationalists.

If North Carolina, with its Republican dominated government, can sideline anti-immigrant zealots and consider humane solutions to a broken system, then the rest of the nation should be able to as well.

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