RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers are moving forward with tougher penalties for cities and counties that do not follow state immigration law, despite objections from some senators who say that could give the attorney general unwarranted power to investigate citizens and decide how state dollars are spent.
The full Senate gave tentative approval Monday to a bill that could withhold school and road funding from cities or counties that accept identification cards from nonprofit organizations or establish “sanctuary policies.”
The bill would eliminate an exemption for law enforcement to use the cards and create a system for people to report to the attorney general if they suspect a city, county or law enforcement agency is not complying with any of the state’s immigration laws.
Bill supporters say the ID cards are invalid and discourage immigrants from obtaining lawful status.
“When I have new neighbors, we bring them a pie; we don’t give them a fake ID,” said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson.
The bill has been opposed by the North Carolina Sheriffs Association, which says the cards allow officers to establish a person’s identity or residency when individuals have no other documentation. Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, said that should be reason enough to let the practice continue.
“I think it’s unnecessary at time when we out to create better communities, stronger communities, work closer together, we’re doing just the opposite,” Robinson said.
Opponents say the bill unfairly ties citizen resources such as schools and roads with immigration policy that is subject to a state investigation.
“This bill turns the attorney general into judge, jury and execution for every city’s education and transportation systems,” said Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg.
Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said the bill does not provide for any transparency for investigations into noncompliant entities.
“It will involve, at some level, investigating citizens, and a lot of this would be anonymous,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash. “That is very concerning to me.”
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, said the bill builds onto the state’s new law limiting antidiscrimination protections for LGBT people and harms North Carolina’s reputation as a welcoming place.
“We need to retain and attract the best and brightest regardless of immigration status, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of race and regardless of gender,” Chaudhuri said.
The bill requires one more vote before the Senate can send its version to the House for approval.