By Pete Zamplas-Gov. Pat McCrory, just before riding in the King Apple Parade Monday, told The Tribune he would let a revised immigration bill go through if it targets farm workers only and eases screening for a brief time.
House Bill 786 originally did so, but was expanded to affect much business and industry. Currently, E-Verify screening is required to determine a worker’s immigration status after 90 days on the job. The bill’s vetoed version extended the exemption to nine months which is beyond summer farm work and affects many industries, and took out specification of agriculture only.
McCrory calls these changes an unacceptable “loophole.” He said the fallout includes “difficulty in finding fraud,” and detecting criminal records of workers. He said E-verify electronic data search is the only reliable screening, and vastly superior to I-9 employment eligibility verification forms.
The governor, therefore, vetoed the measure four weeks ago after the General Assembly passed it. He said there was insufficient debate on the bill, and his veto “gives “pause on the process to consider “real long-term ramifications.”
McCrory also on Labor Day honored Jeff Miller with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine prestigious civic honor, for starting HonorAir complimentary flights of World War II veterans to D.C. McCrory is the first governor in 21 years to participate in the parade, which closed the 67th annual Apple Festival. Nearly 50 local GOP faithful walked behind him on a warm, clear day.
His immigration veto drew praise from Henderson County Republican Party Chairman Mike Scruggs, among those against any express pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in this country. Scruggs said he was also pleased the bill, before it passed, removed a clause letting illegal immigrants get driver’s license and thus identification cards as a step closer to voting and doing so in a likely pro-Democrat bloc.
Several others have a mixed view on immigration, and applaud McCrory’s willingness to help local farmers hire workers. Agribusiness Henderson County Executive Director Mark Williams said farmers have had trouble staffing their work in recent years especially when burdened by E-Verify paperwork. He said the bill could help them hire more seasonal workers. He wants E-Verify exemption more than three months, to help longer-term packing and other agricultural operations.
State Rep. Chris Whitmire, R-N.C. 113, voted against the bill. He echoed the governor’s reasoning, saying it punishes “legal, hard-working citizens” seeking the same jobs illegals get. There has long been debate over to what extent illegal aliens do jobs others do not want, a view lessened in steep recession when job-seekers are less choosy.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows was among dignitaries in the parade. He walked, tossing mementos into the crowd. He praised McCrory, who campaigned in part on including western N.C. in his agenda, for his appearance and for honoring Miller. McCrory recalled, as Charlotte mayor, when Miller helped start HonorAir there and even “carried vets onto the plane.” Miller said he simply honored those who “sacrificed” for our freedoms. McCrory presented Miller his award in front of the Boyd Chevrolet dealership, near the parade’s start at Five Points.
Miller is running for City Council, which has two seats up. Other council candidates at the parade included incumbents Jeff Collis and Jerry Smith, and challengers Diane Caldwell and Ralph Freeman. Lynda Erwin, Guri Lee Andermann and Bonnie Wilson are also running. Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk, who is up for re-election this November, walked the parade while challenger Ron Stephens rode in it. Former Judge Steve Franks is also running for mayor.