Statement from the NC Justice Center: HB 318 takes our state down the wrong path

Gov. McCrory to sign bill that makes North Carolina seem like "a hostile place for newcomers of all identities"

RALEIGH (October 28, 2015) —The North Carolina Justice Center is deeply disappointed by Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision to sign HB 318 today. We have consistently called for the Governor to veto this harmful legislation. The law undermines how local governments address their own needs when it comes to immigrant communities and makes North Carolina appear to be a hostile place for newcomers of all identities.

We are also deeply disturbed by how this bill limits jobless workers' ability to receive food assistance. This could affect up to 100,000 North Carolinians and their broader communities, most of which are rural. The bill would permanently prevent North Carolina from waiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s benefit time limit. This time limit applies regardless of whether these individuals are actually able to find employment or training opportunities. The end of current waivers will come at a time when 77 counties qualify for the waivers due to a significant lack of jobs.

Since the bill was passed in September 2015 by the NC General Assembly, we have been concerned about it hurting people who need reliable identification simply to access important services and failing to protect our neighbors from hunger.

To name one problematic example, the bill declared that a consular ID card or a local identification card cannot be used for proving identity or residency “by a justice, judge, clerk, magistrate, law enforcement officer, or other government official.” It is not yet clear who will be considered an “other government official.” If this passage is interpreted broadly by state and local government agencies, the consequences could be dire for vulnerable immigrants and citizens throughout North Carolina.

The bill also has important implications for community safety, and will likely foster mistrust between crime victims and witnesses and the police. Law enforcement agencies should be able to use every available tool to enhance community trust and encourage reporting of crime. This bill unwisely strips away methods adopted by communities to enhance community safety.

At the Justice Center, we will continue to work with anyone – state officials, local officials, community members – to develop administrative rules that will truly minimize harm and increase community safety. North Carolina should be a welcoming place for immigrants, and a safe place for all residents. We must be very careful about how we achieve those goals, and we continue to believe that HB 318 takes our state down the wrong path.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Dani Moore, dani@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2178; Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).