Friday, September 13, 2013, 12:13 PM

It Was Never About State-Based Immigration Reform

Early this week I had the opportunity to meet Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the NC Farm Bureau at which he described the need for comprehensive federal immigration reform and shared his experience with it while he served in President Bush's Cabinet. He is a smart man with an impressive list of accomplishments - political and otherwise.

Secretary Chertoff rightfully suggests that our immigration system failings and our workforce needs are intertwined. I'm not just talking about the back breaking jobs that North Carolinians won't take, I'm also talking about the jobs that SAS advertizes for folks with Ph.D.'s in math. But since this was the Farm Bureau, and since I was at the NC Legislature watching the strange political showdown of House Bill 786, I'll focus on the need for manual labor in this state.

House Bill 786: RECLAIM NC, was conceived as legislation that acknowledges that North Carolina has illegal immigrants in our workforce and our communities. And since the federal government has not provided any reasonable way for dealing with them the state should at least figure out who they are, weed out the bad apples, make sure they are insured and trained drivers since we know they are on our roads, and figure out how they can participate in our economy in a way that benefits us until the federal government provides a workable legal structure.

The version of the enacted bill requires the state to study the issue of temporary driver's privileges, increasing the crime for the creation and sale of false identity documents, closes some loopholes regarding who must use E-Verify, and provides some relief from E-Verify for seasonal workers. There will be no easy answers.

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