House Bill 749 would give undocumented immigrants limited IDs. The bill would also stiffen penalties for possessing fraudulent identification, with several conditions.
In order to receive an ID, immigrants would need to complete a driver’s license application and agree to a full criminal history check, including a fingerprint search in the state database.
“(The ID is) not valid for any purpose other than demonstrating identity,” the bill said.
The bill stated IDs could neither demonstrate eligibility for voter registration or public services, nor could they “legitimize the holder’s presence in the United States.”
Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Watauga, said if passed, the bill would primarily help law enforcement officers.
“Law enforcement tells us that they need to know the identification of people that they pull over or that are involved in any kind of traffic accident,” he said. “This would help in those cases.”
The bill would include a provision that limits penalties for underage purchases of alcohol and tobacco products.
Violations for underage purchase of alcohol and tobacco will remain misdemeanors — consistent with current penalties for the crimes.
Fran Muse, director of UNC Student Legal Services, said this provision is very important for legally protecting college students, who might possess a fake ID solely to illegally purchase alcohol products.
“There are potential felonies for possession with a fake ID, we do not see college students being charged with those crimes,” Muse said. “We see them being charged with the alcohol statute. If they include this provision, it will be consistent.”
Penalties for possessing, manufacturing and selling fraudulent IDs would be strengthened — shifting from a misdemeanor to a felony. Jordan said fraud is a big problem right now in North Carolina, though he said it is difficult to quantify.
“It’s out there, but it’s hard to (track) because people can use several different names and several different IDs,” Jordan said. “There’s also IDs out there by nonprofit organizations, which we don’t know what kind of vetting procedures they have in place.”
One such organization is FaithAction, a Greensboro-based nonprofit which provides identification, called “Faith IDs,” to community members who have limited access to government-issued documentation.
Rev. David Fraccaro, executive director of FaithAction, said services like theirs are necessary due to a lack of understanding of communities in the legislature.
“Unfortunately, there are some at the state level — and I really do say some — who really don’t understand our complex immigration system, and just say ‘Those undocumented people don’t belong here,’” Fraccaro said.
Nonetheless, Fraccaro said he is encouraged by the bill. But he cautioned against using the IDs to further isolate undocumented immigrants in North Carolina.
“It’s more positive than most of what’s being put out there by the state government right now,” Fraccaro said. “If they can figure out a way to humanize and bring greater trust and dignity to cardholders, they will accomplish something very important.”
Matthew O’Brien is the director of research for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit organization advocating immigration reform. The group is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being anti-immigration.
O’Brien said House Bill 749 seems to be a mechanism to create more identity fraud.
“You’re not going to be able to give an ID that actually serves to identify these people because you can’t vet them,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said he thinks the law could easily be taken advantage of — and that he questions its purpose.
“It’s very easy to dismiss this because, you know, if you’re Jose Lopez and you tell us you’re Juan Gonzalez, people say ‘Ok, big deal,’” he said. “But if I tell you I’m Matt O’Brien, and I’m actually Osama bin Laden, then we’ve got a problem.”