A legislative proposal in North Carolina would require school principals to check the immigration status of prospective students.
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Dale Folwell, seeks to make school districts track how much they spend on educating undocumented immigrants, according to the wording in the measure, known as the "Safe Students Act."
Folwell said the information would not be used to deny admission to any student – a move prohibited by a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said all children in the country are entitled to a public education through high school. At the same, Folwell, a Republican, said he wants to crack down on illegal immigration in the state.
"We must have fiscal research of the impact that illegal immigration is having on North Carolina," Folwell said, according to the News & Observer.
Opponents of the bill are skeptical that information gathered about immigration status will be used only for record-keeping. They believe the law would alienate school administrators from immigrant parents, who'll feel targeted and fear deportation.
At a legislative hearing on the bill Tuesday, according to published reports, a resident, David Rigby, said: "I don't know what this information will be used for in the future. I see this as a continuation of a program throughout the state to undermine the ability of our undocumented community to have any faith in public services."
Sarah Preston of the state American Civil Liberties Union chapter says the bill may violate federal law.
A similar bill in Virginia was defeated in February by a state Senate committee.
A Pew Hispanic Center report on undocumented immigrants listed North Carolina as one of the states with the largest numbers of people who are here illegally. The report said North Carolina is home to some 325,000 unauthorized immigrants.
"Nearly a quarter [of U.S. undocumented immigrants] lives in California," the report said. "Nonetheless, unauthorized immigrants live in every state, and several of their top destinations, including Georgia and North Carolina, housed relatively few unauthorized immigrants two decades ago."
This story contains material from The Associated Press.