Hundreds gather at General Assembly for 'Day of the Immigrant'

Elaina Athans Image
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Hundreds gather at General Assembly for 'Day of the Immigrant'
Hundreds of immigrants gathered at the General Assembly in Raleigh on Wednesday

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Hundreds of immigrants gathered at the General Assembly in Raleigh on Wednesday for what they called the "Day of the Immigrant."

They used the event to try to convince state leaders that they should pass legislation that would grant a driver's licenses to immigrants.

"We only want a driver's permit to keep contributing to the state economy," said immigrant Xochitl Hernadez.

The group first went to the General Assembly to literally clean house. They showed up with cleaning supplies. People were polishing the staircase railings, sweeping the floor, and Windexing glass. An organizer explained the demonstration was meant to show that immigrants will do whatever work is necessary in this country to provide a better life for their families.

"This is what we do," said organizer Viridiana Martinez. "Even if it's cleaning up insects that maybe nobody else wants to do, but immigrants that come to North Carolina are willing to do that."

The group also rallied outside Governor Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper's offices.

A bill that would provide driving privileges for immigrant has stalled in the house. It would require immigrants to pay for fingerprinting and background checks.

Read more here: Debate over immigrants getting North Carolina driver's licenses continues

Critics says the bill would legitimize undocumented workers and encourage immigrants to flock to the Tar Heel State.

McCrory is one opponent of the bill. His office issued a statement:

"The Governor does not support H328 because there is no data proving that giving driving privileges to undocumented people guarantees safer drivers. He also does not want to tie the hands of law enforcement with the provision that prohibits information sharing among agencies. He also does not support granting driving privileges and state sanctioned identification to people who are living illegally in North Carolina."

Representative Paul Luebke sponsored the legislation.

"They [critics] don't realize the contributions immigrants make to the economy, and so they just what to be very punishing really to them," said Rep. Luebke.

"They [immigrants] pay taxes, and they pay into Social Security, but they're not even asking to benefit from that. They're just asking 'Let me legally drive so that we can continue to contribute to North Carolina and make it the great state that it is,'" said Martinez.

Organizers tell ABC11 plan to hold other Day of the Immigrant events in the future.

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