© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Charlotte Area

N.C. Advocates, Business Leaders React To Immigration Proposal

Michael Tomsic

"A good first step." That's how some North Carolina immigration advocates and business leaders are describing the immigration overhaul filed in the U.S. Senate Wednesday.

The roughly 800-page bill is the result of months of negotiations between a bipartisan group of senators called the "Gang of Eight."

It aims to change the way immigration works in the United States, with a bigger focus on skilled workers, a technological overhaul of border security, and a path to citizenship for some in the country illegally.

In Durham, Chamber of Commerce Vice President John White is a fan.

"The bottom line is that this is a good first step. We're optimistic at this because it is a bipartisan piece of legislation," White said on a conference call with reporters.

White said he's happy the overhaul includes more visas for skilled workers. He said that's especially important to employers in the Research Triangle Park.

But in Charlotte, Southeast Asian Coalition Director Cat Bao Le said there's a catch: fewer family-based visas.

"A lot of immigrant women in the U.S., most, come to the U.S. through family-based visa petitions," Bao Le said. "They don't come through employment visas."

So Bao Le is worried the changes would mean fewer women emigrate to America.

The bill eliminates visas that allow U.S. citizens to petition for their siblings and their children over the age of 30 to join them. Bao Le said that could hurt Asian-Americans, too.

"Two-thirds of us being foreign born, we have a lot of folks that we're waiting to be reunited with," she said.

Across North Carolina, farm owners will find things they like in the bill. That's according to Linda Andrews of the Farm Bureau.

"This framework and the objectives of this bill represent a positive of being able to access a legal workforce now and in the future," Andrews said on a conference call with reporters.

Andrews likes that the bill creates a new guest-worker program specifically for farm workers, and that it creates a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

In Charlotte, Latin American Coalition spokesman Armando Bellmas is also a big fan of that path.

"We love the fact that there is a part of this bill that says if you're in this country and you got here before a certain amount of time, here's your pathway, go," he said.

Bellmas would like for it to be a shorter and less expensive pathway. It's designed to take 13 years, and it requires fines that could add up to $2,000.

But Bellmas likes that young people brought to the country illegally (often called Dreamers) can become citizens after only five years, as long as they go to college or join the military.

He's also a fan of a provision that allows people who were deported to reunite with their spouses or young children if the only law they broke was entering the country illegally.