Statement from the NC Justice Center: All North Carolinians should have access to driver's licenses, regardless of immigration status

RALEIGH (July 16, 2013) — All qualified North Carolinians should have access to driver’s licenses, regardless of immigration status. Punitive immigration policies, such as the failed policies of Arizona and Alabama, undermine rather than enhance public safety.

Because of this, the North Carolina Justice Center applauds the state House taking a cautious approach to its omnibus immigration enforcement measure by converting HB 786 into a study bill.

We continue to strongly support access to driver’s licenses for all qualified North Carolinians, regardless of immigration status, but opposed several of the provisions that would have meant punitive and drastic outcomes for hundreds of thousands of folks — including native North Carolinians — living and working in our state.

We hope that if the Department of Public Safety studies the issues addressed in the so-called RECLAIM NC Act that they consider the very real consequences of these measures. The RECLAIM NC Act would have imposed serious economic and human costs to immigrants and their families. Additionally, the bill would have had potentially dramatic effects on state and local budgets, diverting funds from effective public safety efforts and other important priorities. Finally, increased cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration authorities has been demonstrated to decrease public safety, because immigrants become less likely to report crimes to the police.   

North Carolina should not follow the misguided path that Arizona, Alabama, and others have tried, leading to decreased public safety and the demonstrated negative fiscal and economic impacts  on those states. Rather, we should follow the lead of other states that have recently allowed aspiring citizens to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status, increasing public safety for all.

We welcome the opportunity to keep working with legislators and other leaders of our state in developing public policy initiatives that strengthen North Carolina communities, ensure fair treatment regardless of race and national origin, and expand economic opportunities for all of our state’s residents.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).