Warren stands firm on bill after criticism

Published 12:10 am Friday, April 17, 2015

By Josh Bergeron


Following criticism calling his proposal a way for illegal immigrants to obtain a license, State Rep. Harry Warren says he has no plans to alter the contents of his bill, but would be willing to entertain certain amendments.

Named the “Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act,” Warren’s bill amends multiple laws pertaining to identification and immigrants. The bill’s changes would make it a felony to sell fake driver’s licenses and identification cards and eliminate certain foreign documents as being acceptable proof of identification. The most controversial of the bill’s proposals is that the state could issue a restricted drivers permit to immigrants living in North Carolina illegally. The bill would also allow a restricted identification card — without driving privileges — to immigrants.

Requirements to obtain the permit include: the applicant not being lawfully present in the U.S., agreeing to a criminal background check and meeting normal requirements for a drivers license.

A House judiciary committee passed the bill on Wednesday after criticism that more immigrants would move to the state if Warren’s proposal becomes law. It was then referred to the House’s Finance Committee.

When asked about his proposal Warren said the criticism mischaracterized the intent of his bill.

“It creates a new DMV product called a restricted permit,” Warren said. “There is no comparison between a restricted permit and a valid North Carolina drivers license other than the fact that it will allow an individual to drive. Unlike a valid North Carolina drivers license, it is not considered a form of legal ID for North Carolina. There’s no validity to the comparison of this to a North Carolina drivers license.”

Warren said he wouldn’t accept any amendments to the bill that would change its main intent.

“I’m not going to make any changes due to criticism,” he said. “If there’s some constructive input maybe, but the bill has taken three years to craft. Criticism of it by people who misunderstand the bill or what it will accomplish isn’t going to prompt a change.”

The reason for the inclusion of the restricted permit in his bill, Warren said, is for any immigrants in the state illegally to show the financial responsibility and capability to drive. He said some immigrants here illegally choose to drive without insurance or a form of identification.

“Since the federal government is not being proactive in removing these folks and coming up with a solution to the immigration problem, it is in our best interest to create a requirement for them to come forward and identify themselves,” Warren said.

The bill states the restricted drivers permit “shall not be used as a basis for a criminal investigation, arrest, or detention in circumstances in which a person who possesses some other form of identification would not be criminally investigated, arrested, or detained.”

The identification card or drivers permit would give law enforcement officers additional information about the estimated 325,000 immigrants in the state illegally, Warren said.

The bill would require immigrants to complete identical steps as an American citizen to obtain a drivers license.

Warren has three other primary sponsors on his bill — Rep. Brian Brown, a Republican from Pitt County, Rep. Jeff Collins, a Republican from Rocky Mount, and Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican who represents Ashe and Watauga counties. The only co-sponsor is Rep. Larry Yarborough, a Republican from Roxboro.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246