Immigration bill vetoed by McCrory

By Matthew Burns

Gov. Pat McCrory kept his veto stamp warm Thursday, rejecting an immigration-related bill shortly after one on drug testing for welfare applicants. Lawmakers turned most of House Bill 786, called the RECLAIM NC Act, into a study of the impact on the state if restricted driver's permits were issued to people who are in the U.S. illegally and if law enforcement were allowed to verify people's immigration status.

Part of the bill, however, would have loosened the requirements for employers using the E-Verify system to electronically check the immigration status of an employee. Under current law, seasonal workers hired for 90 days or less don't have to be checked through the system, but the bill would have expanded that exemption to anyone hired for up to nine months.

McCrory said that would make it easier for businesses in many industries to circumvent federal immigration law, which could allow more illegal immigrants to be hired in North Carolina industries.

"It has a huge loophole for probably up to 30 percent of our businesses in North Carolina to not use e-verification, which tells whether you’re hiring illegal immigrants for the jobs," he said. "I want to save North Carolina jobs for citizens of North Carolina, especially us being the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country."

He recommended that the entire bill be studied, including the definition of a seasonal worker. No funds were provided to conduct any studies called for in the bill, which he also criticized as fiscally irresponsible.

House Speaker Thom Tillis said he was consulting with other Republican lawmakers on a possible override of the veto.

“The primary objective of the bill is to address immigration procedures and policies that Washington has neglected for years, causing serious problems for employers and job creators in North Carolina," Tillis said in a statement. "The regulatory burden and complexity caused by federal inaction requires us to consider stop-gap measures while we wait for politicians in D.C. to take action."