Raleigh, NC - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates North Carolina has the 9th highest population of illegal immigrants in the nation and our state legislature is taking their best shot at a solution.
Thursday, lawmakers from the House Select Committee on the State's Role in Immigration Policy met to give their recommendations to the General Assembly.
The committee urged the federal government to better enforce border security everywhere, and for Washington to delegate more authority for states to enforce immigration laws. Their recommendations were more moderate than many expected and did not carry any specific legislation.
Lawmakers say they've learned from the sweeping reform passed in Alabama and Arizona, especially the sections that were questioned by the Supreme Court.
"When they were sent to the Supreme Court, we learned what would pass the courts, but we're not going to do what's best for Alabama or Arizona, we are going to do what's best for North Carolina," explained Representative Frank Iler, Co-Chair of the committee.
There was some tough talk from lawmakers who say North Carolina needs the strongest immigration reform in the southeast. Forsyth County Representative Dale Folwell says illegal immigration is, "impacting every system that we have the responsibility of operating. Its impacting the public education system, our jobs market, our higher education system, and also out crime and public safety."
After the hearing, Iler met with Latino advocates to discuss their proposal for state drivers licenses to illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for years and who have clean criminal records.
Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page says the state needs a clear picture on what documents are acceptable when identifying people.
"That's the issue; in North Carolina there is a question of what is a proper identification. What is the proper document to use when you are trying to identify yourself? So that is a question in North Carolina and probably that's going to be an area where I see our legislative representatives looking at is, what can we consider proper identification for law enforcement officers to use when they are interacting with persons from different places," explains Page.
The committee also recommended to:
Encourage NC Congressional delegation to take leadership roles in introducing legislation to revise federal immigration laws.
Urge the federal government to enforce security along all borders of the United States .
Advocate for wider authority to be delegated to states so that the states may work more closely with the federal government in the enforcement of immigration laws.
Advocating for the wider authority to be delegated to the states to better serve the employment and labor needs of individual states.
Committee also encourages further discussion among entities with economic interest in the issues - leaders in agriculture and agribusiness, construction, hospitality, information technology and science.
Committee encourages renewed focus on economic development and opportunities to increase the states regional competitiveness through pragmatic approaches to immigration in the state.
WFMY News 2, The Associated Press