- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Jan. 20

The News & Observer of Raleigh on the government shutdown:

When the U.S. government shut down last Saturday morning, one of the federal buildings that locked its doors was the Statue of Liberty.



It was a fitting symbol. For what this crisis is really about is whether America wants to abandon its identity as a nation of immigrants and deny its faith in E pluribus unum, “out of many, one.”

If that identity and faith still prevailed among those who control Congress, there would be no struggle over how to protect people from deportation who were illegally brought to this country as children. Those people, many of them now young, industrious adults, had been protected under President Obama’s program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. President Trump moved to end the program last September and gave Congress until March to find a way to protect immigrants enrolled in DACA, a group also known as the Dreamers, while also passing broader immigration reforms.

Exaggerated fears

Inevitably, the fate of the Dreamers has become entangled in the president’s wildly exaggerated claims of criminals pouring into the U.S. at its southern border, his demand for $18 billion to build a wall stretching thousands of miles along that border and concerns about immigrants taking American jobs even as unemployment is at a 17-year low.

A nativist theme ran through Trump’s “America First” presidential campaign and flashed again in his recent outburst against immigrants from poor, mostly black nations. Now that bias threatens the Dreamers and has prompted Democrats to oppose a government funding bill until the Dreamers are again granted protection from deportation.

The overriding issue in the DACA debate shouldn’t be that those who brought children here illegally broke the law. The top concern should be that the law itself is broken. U.S. immigration law is so convoluted and the process of legal entry so slow and narrow that those fleeing desperate circumstances or seeking a better life have little recourse but to enter the U.S. illegally. Legal entry, as a practical matter for most of them, is simply not available.

The extent of the law’s brokenness is made plain by the sea of people now living in the United States illegally either because they illegally crossed the border, overstayed their visas or were brought in as children. That population stands at 11 million. Under DACA, nearly 800,000 of them were given protections to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Now that fear is back and stronger than ever since many of those here illegally came out of the shadows and identified themselves to receive DACA protections.

N.C. Dreamers

The DACA issue is a compelling one for North Carolina. The state has the nation’s seventh-highest number of young, undocumented immigrants granted deferrals from deportation. Nearly 33,000 North Carolinians are currently DACA-eligible.

Steve Rao, a Morrisville Town Council member whose parents came to the U.S. from India, is a member of coalition of businesses local government leaders known as New American Economy, which promotes the value of immigration to the U.S. economy. He said immigrants make up a disproportionate share of the nation’s entrepreneurs and many of the Dreamers have shown a strong determination to succeed here.

Threatening dreamers with deportation, he said, “Goes against the grain of what made America great.”

And contrary to some claims, the Dreamers are an asset, not a burden. NEA research shows that 90 percent of the DACA eligible population 16 years and older are employed. Collectively, that population earns nearly $20 billion a year and pays more than $3 billion in federal, state and local taxes, with much of those tax payments going to support programs for which they are ineligible.

Rao notes that the delays on immigration reform are affecting more than the Dreamers. He said highly skilled immigrants in the Triangle, many from South Asia, are frustrated by their inability to gain U.S. citizenship and are going back to their native lands.

“I am seeing many of these entrepreneurs wanting to go back to India, or to set up shop in Canada, as the Trump administration has threatened to slow down immigration,” he said. “We need the next Google or SAS to grow jobs in North Carolina, not somewhere else in the world.”

Reforming the nation’s tangled immigration laws will take compromise and good will on both sides. But there’s no need to wait on what to do about the Dreamers. They are Americans in every way but on a piece of paper. It’s time they were told they’re home.

Online: http://www.newsobserver.com

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Jan. 20

The StarNews of Wilmington on issues with North Carolina’s school class sizes:

State Sen. John Alexander, R-Wake, is reportedly telling his voters that a fix to the class-size crisis is coming when the legislature gets around to its regular session in March.

We have to hear back from everybody, explained Alexander, whose budget committee will likely have to deal with the mess. They don’t want to rush anything.

A lot of parents, teachers and harried administrators, however, wish our legislators would get off their Honorables and do something right now.

To recap: A few years ago, the General Assembly ordered that class sizes in grades K through 3 be reduced. Not a bad idea.

But the Honorables provided no funding. That means school districts have to scrimp, save and work it out for themselves, with local money.

In New Hanover County, the school system is going to have to hire up to 48 new elementary teachers - and come up with classrooms for them.

Brunswick is adding 32 teachers, setting up trailers and turning computer labs into classrooms. Much of this will be accomplished either by increasing county taxes or by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Peter, in this case, would be students in grades four and up. Their class sizes are likely to swell, and word has it that many schools will be losing music, art, physical education and technology teachers.

The legislature needs to fix the mess they made, and since the class-size rules take effect in August, it would be nice if they could muster a bit of urgency.

State House members are apparently ready to act, but senators like Alexander are saying, hey, don’t rush into anything; such decisions need to be carefully considered, right?

Of course, this is the same crowd of Republicans who assembled in a matter of days after the Charlotte’s city council passed a non-discrimination ordinance. In a special one-day session, the General Assembly passed the infamous - and completely unenforceable - HB-2, the “potty police” law.

That, apparently, rose to the level of an urgent problem. The welfare of our schoolchildren and stability of our school systems? Not so much.

So where are New Hanover County’s Mike Lee and Brunswick County’s Bill Rabon in all this? They usually do as they are told by Senate leader Phil Berger and his enforcers; ignoring needed GenX funding being one of the latest examples.

We wonder how they feel about the Senate’s delay in addressing a problem it helped create? A mess, by the way, that could have - and should have - been cleaned up months ago.

We urge parents and voters to ask them.

Online: www.starnewsonline.com

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Jan. 21

The Rocky Mount Telegram on legislative and congressional redistricting:

It is well beyond time to take redistricting out of the hands of state legislators.

The state legislative and congressional district boundaries first drawn in 2011 by Republican lawmakers and redrawn in 2016 after a successful court challenge remain under litigation today. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they could still be under litigation when it’s time for them to be redrawn again in 2021 after the 2020 U.S. Census.

A panel of federal judges on Jan. 9 struck down the congressional district map that lawmakers redrew in 2016 and ordered the legislature to redraw it once again next week.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 18 delayed that lower-court order while similar court challenges to partisan gerrymandered congressional districts in Texas, Pennsylvania and Maryland also are pending in federal court.

Meanwhile, federal judges on Jan. 19 approved state legislative districts redrawn by an expert they hired after they were not happy with the districts they ordered lawmakers to redraw in August. Republican legislative leaders quickly announced that they intend to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to delay that order as well, so the new map will not be used in this year’s elections.

We have argued in the space for decades that an independent, nonpartisan commission should be used to draw legislative and congressional districts. We called for such a system when Democrats controlled the N.C. General Assembly, while their district maps were being successfully challenged in court. Back then, members of the then-Republican legislative minority agreed with that proposition.

That view, of course, changed when the GOP took control of the General Assembly in 2011 - and they proceeded to do what we did not think possible at the time: A worse and more partisan job of redistricting than the Democrats did.

Online: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com

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