Another legislative year is about to end, and the North Carolina General Assembly has not had the slightest intention of discussing a bill that seeks to give a restricted driver’s permit to undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements, and there are no indications that they want to do it by . Let us briefly analyze the possible reasons for this setback and what we could do to resurrect this law and achieve other victories.
For more than eight years, various local organizations fought to give a driver’s permit to the state’s undocumented. , the organization Jesus Ministry, facing mockery and rejection, almost achieved the impossible: they helped push for a law regarding licenses that was written and sponsored by Republican legislator Harry Warren.
After overcoming various delays, committees, and strong opposition from the then governor Pat McCrory, the legislation advanced, bringing hope to thousands of families; but ultimately it did not get enough votes.
It is estimated that restricted driver’s permits would have benefited about 114,000 undocumented immigrants who reside in North Carolina.
Because of Republican lawmakers’ failure to pass a law during these past several years, the undocumented are still waiting to see their dream of obtaining a state driver’s license or permit become reality. What is the explanation that legislators give year after year? They say that this is not the political environment or time for such a measure.
Some analysts conclude that the
environment referred to by lawmakers is the anti-immigrant climate promoted by President Donald Trump, along with the
fear of state politicians that they will lose support from conservative voters in the upcoming elections.
The truth is that it will never be the perfect time, nor will there be the ideal environment, to pass a local measure on the immigration issue. But those who believe that this bill is necessary must create the conditions for this to happen. There is only one problem: Latinos in North Carolina are not yet a consolidated electoral force.
Although the actual data on the number of Latino voters in the state are unclear, official figures say that this community represents three percent of the North Carolina electorate. This may sound like a small number, but in a close election (like the one when President Barack Obama won this state by only 14,000 votes), every vote counts. The problem is that fewer than half of Latino voters exercise this right.
It is understandable that in many cases the community does not feel fully represented by the candidates seeking their vote. People’s lack of confidence in the political system is also perfectly justifiable (after having suffered multiple letdowns). However, this in no way should limit our right. We have a moral obligation to be the voice of those who cannot vote.
Only when we make our voices heard at the polls will politicians address our requests.