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'Sanctuary cities' debate heats up in North Carolina, governor urged to veto bill

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (2015 Getty Images)

Hispanic residents and their supporters have shown up across from North Carolina’s Executive Mansion most evenings this month demanding that Gov. Pat McCrory veto legislation addressing “sanctuary cities” and immigrant identification.

Chanting and carrying placards, the cadre of daily demonstrators – usually ranging from 30 to 75 – keep pressing McCrory, even though the Republican governor seems to have lined up publicly with one section of the measure.

Protesters say the bill would harm immigrants and North Carolina businesses that rely on immigrant labor.

“We are doing what we can do,” Xochitl Hernandez, an immigrant organizer originally from Mexico, said during a break from Monday night’s demonstration. “It’s going to hurt all of North Carolina. It’s not only us.”

The bill was one of 14 that McCrory had yet to act upon Tuesday from the dozens the General Assembly approved in the final days of this year’s session. The governor has until midnight Friday to sign or veto them. Otherwise, they become law without his signature.

McCrory’s office didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to an email asking whether he would sign the full bill.

The legislation, approved largely upon party lines favoring Republicans, would prevent government officials or police from accepting identification cards issued by the Mexican consulate or by other consulates to affirm someone’s identity. The cards, which bill supporters argue are unreliable and favored by immigrants in the country unlawfully, also couldn’t be used to confirm one’s identity to obtain a driver’s license, insurance or Medicaid coverage.

Also barred would be ID cards issued by local governments or outside organizations, although they could be used by police when a person stopped has no other ID. Several other types of ID remain acceptable.

The measure also would prohibit local governments from approving policies that supporters say improve uneasy relations between police and immigrants and encourage crime victims to come forward.

A handful of North Carolina towns and cities - Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro among them - instruct law enforcement and other officials not to ask the immigration status of people with whom they come into contact or ignore deportation orders in some cases.

Such policies would be negated under the final legislation. San Francisco’s status as a “sanctuary city” has reignited efforts nationally to halt such policies after a woman was killed by a Mexican national who had been released from jail despite federal requests to detain him for deportation proceedings.

These cities “are putting our state at a public safety risk” by refusing to take into account whether criminal suspects should be in the state to begin with, said Ron Woodard with Morrisville-based NC Listen, which opposes illegal immigration.

Some North Carolina municipalities simply “are deciding not to dedicate their resources to enforce federal immigration law” and are making it a priority for police to have strong, “comfortable” relationships with residents, said Angeline Echeverria with North Carolina Latino advocacy group El Pueblo.

McCrory said in a Sept. 29 campaign fundraising email he opposed “sanctuary cities” and believed every law enforcement officer is sworn to uphold the laws of North Carolina and the United States, “and that includes our immigration laws.”

The same bill would prevent the state from seeking federal government waivers allowing healthy adults without dependents from receiving food stamps beyond three months unless they’re working or getting training.

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