July 4 was a day the United States celebrated its independence from British rule, but also, in the case of North Carolina, from a toxic anti-immigrant bill called HB 100. The legislation, which steamrolled through the State Senate, ultimately died in the House Rules Committee on Saturday after meeting intense resistance from the immigrant community and law enforcement.
The battle against HB 100 showed many in North Carolina that we can succeed when people of good-will come together to protect the rights and dignity of all our residents. Indeed, during the last week of session, calls flooded into the offices of House Representatives from immigrants, allies, and numerous law enforcement officials, all with the same clear message: Vote No on HB 100.
However, it also showed us what happens when we stay at home. The North Carolina State Senate has 50 members – 33 of them are Republican, most of whom do not support our community. In fact, the vote on HB 100 was 31 – 18. Watching from the Senate gallery, it was clear that when voters who support our community and progressive values stay home, that’s what we get representing the state.
Sponsored by Representative George Cleveland, HB 100 would have outlawed the use of a local ID that is the primary way many undocumented immigrants identify themselves and a vital tool for public safety in nine counties across the state and major cities like Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Burlington, Asheboro, Chapel Hill, and Durham. Moreover, HB 100 would have turned the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, for which chief zealot Senator Buck Newton is a candidate, into an Immigration Czar capable of withholding school and transportation funds from any municipality he deemed to be not hostile enough to immigrants.
HB 100 was a critical moment for many in the Latino and immigrant community because it reaffirmed how devastating an impact the legislature can have on their local community and it has also cultivated a deep recognition in many grassroots groups around the state that without a strong voter engagement program, even the greatest of progress can be undermined by legislative fiat.
And so we find ourselves in a post-session, pre-election moment in North Carolina when undocumented immigrants and their allies are rightly triumphant in their defeat of HB 100 but also deeply aware of the implications that this election and future elections will have on the lives of undocumented Americans.
What is at stake in this election cycle is the potential to defeat Governor McCrory who signed anti-immigrant bill HB 318 last October. Not to mention the opportunity to unseat Senator Richard Burr who voted to deport Dreamers and parents of US Citizens, and voted against immigration reform. And finally, we have the power to swing North Carolina from an anti-immigrant legislature to one that respects and values our community – while resoundingly defeating Donald Trump and his hateful, racist and xenophobic agenda for America.
All this is possible……if we turn out to vote.