Stark contrast between protest styles

Jun. 09, 2013 @ 08:14 PM

The NAACP-driven Moral Mondays might not change a single GOP lawmaker's mind, but the weekly events at the capital in Raleigh garner attention that raises awareness and fires up the Democratic base.

But groups fighting House Bill 786 - the RECLAIM NC Act - seem like they must settle for protesting from the shadows.

If passed, the new state immigration law would require undocumented immigrants to get a driving permit or state identification card by admitting to being in the country without permission, submitting fingerprints and passing a criminal background check, proving that they lived in North Carolina as of April 1, 2013, and proving state residency for at least a year.

The language of the legislation indicates that it was spawned in kneejerk fashion to what state lawmakers see as deficiencies in federal immigration policies. On one hand, it acknowledges that immigration issues are a federal matter, but then it pivots to the necessity of North Carolina doing the federal government's job.

Strange, contradictory legislation coming from a state government that in turn tries to tell counties and municipalities how to run things.

"These arbitrary residency requirements mean that migrant farmworkers and other immigrants who live here to work in tourism, seafood processing or other seasonal industries would not qualify for the permit or ID if they can't prove they have lived in North Carolina for a year," reports the North Carolina Justice Center. "In fact, anyone who can't prove their presence or who arrived after April 1, 2013 won't qualify."

As The Herald-Sun's Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan reported, the state's two largest Latino nonprofits, including El Centro Hispano in Durham and Carrboro, want to see RECLAIM NC defeated. It's an Arizona-style "Show me your papers" law that Angeline Echeverria, executive director of El Pueblo, correctly described as "a step backward for North Carolina."

But when the General Assembly discusses the bill this week, El Centro isn't urging people to protest in person. Instead, president and CEO Pilar Rocha-Goldberg wants people to call legislators.

Reluctance to engage in civil disobedience in this case is certainly understandable. While some people might find a certain cachet in an arrest for trespassing on Jones Street, an undocumented immigrant with deportation on the line is unlikely to find that prospect as alluring.

The effort to stop RECLAIM NC also suffers from the fact that the Latino community doesn't seem united against it.

The N.C. DREAM Team, as an example, announced support for the bill in April. The organization, which consists of undocumented immigrant youth and their allies, issued a statement saying, "We welcome this initiative from N.C. Republicans as a signal of their better understanding of the value in this opportunity to move North Carolina forward in a way that is inclusive of the Hispanic community."

The N.C. DREAM Team acknowledged some issues with RECLAIM NC, but maintained that it would be for the best: "We are aware there are problematic provisions within the proposed bill and we intend to provide our voice to that discussion so there is understanding of the community directly affected."

If the Latino community can't agree whether RECLAIM NC moves us backward or forward, then we might just be standing still.

And if opponents are limited to trying to defeat the legislation through a rousing game of legislator phone tag, they might be stymied if no one takes their calls.