Immigration, drilling hot topics during debate

Illegal immigration and offshore drilling have become two of the most emotional issues of this political season. During ABC11's gubernatorial debate Tuesday night both Republican Pat McCrory and Democratic Bev Perdue voiced their strong concerns on the topics.


When discussing the lightning rod topic of immigration during the latest debate, the candidates for governor sounded almost the same.

They want illegal immigrants out of North Carolina and their comments have Latino advocates quite concerned.

"The first thing I will demand is that we get an immigration Court and an Immigration Detention facility right here in North Carolina," Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory said.

"We need to get folks out of the country who are here illegally, if they are accused of committing a crime," Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue said.

Those statements alarm Tony Asion of El Pueblo, a Latino advocacy group in Raleigh. He says for Latinos, there is no good choice for governor.

"If you're getting beat up by your friend or getting beat up by your enemy. It doesn't matter. You're still getting beat up. And that's what's going on with the Latino community right now," Asion said.

McCrory says a study shows illegal immigrants are a drain to the state's economy.

"The cost of illegal immigration to our jails, to our hospitals, to our schools, is much greater than any net benefit of illegal immigrants," McCrory said.

"I can't find anyone who has actually ever seen this study," Asion said.

Perdue says illegal immigrants should not attend community college.

"I don't think North Carolina should take on that responsibility," Perdue said.

North Carolina's Latino population is growing, but is still a tiny fraction of voters.

"The Latino population doesn't have a lot of elected officials. It doesn't have a lot of clout at the polls. And so they're in a tough position politically," Peace College Professor David McClennan said.

"They're picking on Latinos because they're saying; they're not going to do anything about it. Who cares," Asion added.

And one of the biggest immigration topics recently is the program to allow county sheriff departments screen immigrants for their legal status. Both Perdue and McCrory want to expand the so-called 287(g) program.

Offshore Drilling

The two candidates take two different approaches on offshore oil, even though both say they support offshore drilling on the North Carolina coast.

With gas prices bouncing between $3 and $4 a gallon, McCrory has clearly said North Carolina needs to open up its coastline to offshore oil drilling.

"It will create jobs. In the long term it will lower the price of gasoline and natural gas," McCrory said.

For Perdue, the answer to the question of offshore drilling is not as simple and McCrory tried to dig his opponent on her drilling position.

"I support offshore drilling in North Carolina --on the 68 million acres where leases are already approved," Perdue said.

"I got to be frank. I still don't know where she stands on offshore drilling," McCrory said. "The acres that she was talking about are off the Gulf of Mexico. That is not off the coast of North Carolina."

Environmentalists and many democrats have said oil companies should drill in coastal areas where they already have access before congress and states grant new drilling rights.

"It is a very fine line for her to walk," Peace College Professor David McClennan said. "It's difficult to maintain that nuanced position because you have to do it with much more explanation. McCrory answer was simple, direct, and easy to understand."

McCrory said offshore drilling will lead to more money as well as lower gas prices.

"We can use the revenue to replenish our beaches. We can use the revenue to dredge the intercoastal waterway. We can use the revenue to rebuild roads," McCrory said.

Perdue countered the issue needs careful study.

"The mayor of Charlotte has said on my first day, I'm going to sign an executive order saying, 'Katie bar the door, drill off shore'," Perdue said. "I want to be responsible, not reckless."

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