Latina (North Carolina)
By Raquel Reichard
October 23, 2015
Under the "Protect North Carolina Workers Act," or H.B. 318, people will no longer be able to use consulate or country documentation, commonly used by undocumented immigrants, as a form of identification. The bill would also require employers to use E-Verify, an online system that checks workers’ legal status, making it even more difficult for undocumented Latinos to gain employment and even apply for necessary benefits like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has until Oct. 30 to veto or sign the bill into law.
Recognizing the disastrous effects the "Protect North Carolina Workers Act" would have on the state’s immigrant community, Texas Latina Nancy Cardenas started a Change.org petition, which currently has more than 15 thousand supporters. Cardenas talked with Latina about the bill and her petition. Here’s why the young activista is urging Gov. McCrory to do what she believes is in the best interest of North Carolinians and reject the bill.
The North Carolina bill has been called the "Protect North Carolina Workers Act." But you think the legislation, if passed, would actually endanger, not protect, North Carolinians. How so?
This bill has an anti-immigrant agenda that criminalizes immigrants unfairly. Municipalities are forced to be in a situation where, instead of strengthening their relationship with the undocumented community, they have to enforce federal immigration laws. The bill sounds a lot like racial profiling: If people don’t have proper documentation, for anything, then they are at risk of being deported.
The bill would also make it more difficult to apply for SNAP benefits. How will this impact undocumented immigrants, especially with studies already showing that Latino youth have some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country?
I think it will exacerbate a lot. People in these communities already have a hard enough time accessing these services. When you cut off a fundamental service, especially food, it effects all sectors: quality of life, economics, interactions with the police. It has sporadic effects through everything.
Talking about the police, in your petition you also noted that the bill could make life less safe for undocumented immigrants. How so?
Communities in general are safer when residents can report a crime without fearing retaliation from law enforcement. But when you fear deportation, you’re unable to trust law enforcement. So, as I mentioned in the petition, women who are experiencing violence might not call the police for help and mistreated workers may not speak out. You’re afraid to be caught in the crossfire, and this bill strengthens that.
Proponents of the bill claim that it prevents wage depression, which they say is due to the willingness of undocumented workers to work for lower pay. What do you think about this argument?
I think it’s a giant fallacy. Immigrants contribute to the economy, but I also think that that contribution shouldn’t have to validate their safety.
What do you think the intentions of the bill are?
I think the intentions are inherently racist and malicious. There’s nothing good about this bill. The intention wasn’t really to help people who live in North Carolina.
You’re based out of Austin, Texas. Why did you start this petition for a bill in North Carolina?
One of the primary reasons is because I’ve seen legislation like this one being passed throughout the U.S. It’s not just a North Carolina problem; it’s a Texas problem, too. Our lieutenant governor promised that in 2017 there would be an active sanctuary ban throughout Texas. If this is not called out, it will have sporadic effects throughout the U.S.
In your petition, you write that you’ve seen "firsthand how racist anti-immigrant laws can have devastating effects on immigrant families." How so?
My parents were both immigrants; they both crossed. I was born in Texas, so my entire life my family has had this ordeal with dealing with immigration, thinking day to day about the risk of deportation. I would wake up and think if this were the last day I would see them. It doesn’t help when you’re in cities with anti-immigration laws. I thought any interaction with law enforcement meant my parents would be deported, and it’s still a concern today with a majority of my family.
If passed, what message do you think this will send to other states?
I think, if passed, it would send a horrible example to other states, especially those that have been trying to pass similar legislation. It will reinforce an anti-immigrant message that we don’t care about our undocumented community, and that should not be the case.
Governor McCrory, who has expressed support for tougher immigration laws in the past, has seven days left to decide to veto or sign the bill into law. What can North Carolinians do if they want to prevent this bill from passing?
Keep signing the petition. Keep calling your elected officials. Call representatives, and put pressure on them. We have a limited amount of time, but if we apply pressure where it needs to be, I feel hopeful the bill can be vetoed.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com