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Proposed North Carolina law would permit immigration checks

In the last few weeks, the federal government in Washington D.C. has been actively working on revising immigration laws. While any changes at the national level would impact the possibility of gaining citizenship for immigrants in North Carolina, state level legislation may pose a greater day-to-day impact on the lives of those seeking legal citizenship in this country.

Four North Carolina legislators have proposed a new bill that would allow law enforcement officers to verify an individual's immigration status when the officers possess reasonable suspicion. The bill is titled the Reclaim N.C. Act and would impose additional penalties on non-citizen immigrants, such as tougher prison rules that would keep non-citizens in jail longer and charging non-citizens for the costs associated with their incarcerations. While the bill also contains a provision that would allow non-citizens to apply for a special driving permit, immigrant advocates have mixed feelings about the proposed law.

While some advocates cautiously praise the inclusion of the permit provision in the bill, they also express concern over whether the legislation could sanction racial profiling. Noting that it is not possible to determine someone's immigration status based on their appearance, immigrant advocates question what motivation law enforcement would have to act on discovering a non-citizen operating with a special permit and what repercussions would fall upon those who are in the vehicle with the driver.

North Carolina is taking some legislative cues from Arizona, where a law that requires police officers to check the immigration status of a stopped driver was recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court. With an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States and nearly 400,000 of them residing in North Carolina, the Reclaim N.C. Act may be one of many state-level immigration reform bills to make headlines in the coming year.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "Arizona-style immigration law filed in N.C.," Bertrand M. Gutierrez, April 10, 2013

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