Statement: Stop the Misguided Anti-Immigrant Policies

This morning’s legislative committee meeting covers many potential laws that would target immigrants. All are misguided, wasteful and harmful to families.

RALEIGH (Jan. 25, 2011) – This morning, a legislative committee hearing will consider several potential policies that would waste vital state resources, cost more for everyone in North Carolina, and harm families while expanding the most intrusive parts of government.

Uniformly, these strategies take the wrong approach. Instead of targeting undocumented immigrants, we should focus on creating opportunity and prosperity for all.

One example of anti-immigrant thinking: there is a push from certain circles to require state agencies to inform on their neighbors. Employees of such agencies as the Department of Health and Human Services would be required by law to report undocumented individuals, and would be charged with a crime if they did not.

This would create new levels of bureaucracy, increasing costs and wasting resources while addressing a constructed “problem” that practically does not exist. And this is just one example, replete with unnecessary mandates and unintended consequences.

Innocent people would be harmed, directly and indirectly. Legally present individuals – including U.S. citizens – would also be reported, would face more delays with getting needed services, and would suffer as a result. Children would be hurt worst, since many people would choose not to request services for their children because of fear of being targeted.

Additionally, undermining access to services costs taxpayers more money in the long run. For example, preventing access to prenatal care is substantially more expensive than providing the service. It has a huge human cost and also a cost to the public purse. DHHS is already facing a multi-million dollar resource shortage. Training DHHS workers to detect unauthorized immigrant applicants for services will be extremely expensive and time consuming.

Unauthorized immigrants already don’t qualify for most benefits, such as Medicaid or Food Stamps. Raising this issue raises the profile of a problem that doesn't really exist. As such, it would trade off with actual fraud prevention efforts. Wasting scarce time, energy and resources on targeting one segment of the population that doesn't even qualify for most benefits is counterproductive.

Finally, to expand intrusive behavior in this fashion seems to be a hypocritical use of government power by those who claim they want to shrink government. At a time when the state legislature says they are interested in making government smaller, all these efforts would expand it.

To demonize undocumented immigrants is simply unacceptable. To do so while also increasing costs and expanding bureaucracy is particularly nonsensical. Members of the legislature should focus on creating opportunity, not on throwing up roadblocks to prosperity.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Dani Moore, Coordinator, Network of Immigrant Advocates, dani@ncjustice.org, (919) 856-2178; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615.