Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law has thrust state immigration policies into the spotlight, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling leaves N.C. legislators’ next steps unclear.
An N.C. House of Representatives special committee on immigration is set to meet Nov. 13 — without any plans to pass legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration.
But legislators say that if Republicans retain control of the N.C. General Assembly after the Nov. 6 election, they will likely pursue such a policy, despite the federal government’s recent assertion of authority regarding immigration enforcement policies.
The Supreme Court’s high-profile decision on Arizona’s immigration law in Arizona v. United States put immigration issues largely under the purview of the federal government, said UNC law professor Deborah Weissman.
“The decision has certainly been seen as one that reasserts that immigration is a federal matter, not a state matter,” she said.
The Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s immigration law on the basis that the federal government has absolute authority on immigration policy. This ruling leaves state legislators on unsure footing moving forward on immigration policy.
Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, co-chairman of the House committee, said it plans to issue a report to continue studying immigration issues and making only recommendations — no policy proposals — until the new session begins next year.
Warren and Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, the other co-chairman, both said if legislation is proposed next session, it would encourage the federal government to more strongly enforce the law to prevent costs caused by illegal immigrants in the state.
“I have a resolution that the federal government do its job and (the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) help local law enforcement, instead of basically doing as little as possible,” Iler said. “It is a federal issue, but they aren’t doing their job very well.”
Warren said state costs related to illegal immigration are estimated at $2 million every year, but he stressed that any legislation must address these costs without hurting an economy that often depends on these immigrants and their benefits.
“Anything that we seek to introduce has to take into account the reliance of some our industries, particularly agriculture and hospitality, on an available workforce,” he said. “Those industries have to understand there has to be compliance to legal proceedings.”
Cinthia Marroquin, a member of N.C. Dream Team, a group that advocates for immigrant rights, said the legislation should focus on integrating illegal immigrants into local communities instead of increased enforcement.
And Weismann said states have more legal leeway to legislate on issues of integration rather than enforcement.
But Iler said it is not an issue of hurting others, but rather protecting North Carolinians.
“The state has to protect itself and our budget,” he said.
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