Proposed bill requires DSS to release personal information

By Sarah Batista - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -  A proposed law making its way through the North Carolina House is adding more fire to the immigration debate.

House Bill requires the department of Health and Human Services to hand over any information it has on crime suspects.

But critics say the wording of the bill is just a free pass to racially profile and go after illegal immigrants.

If House Bill 28 becomes law, the Department of Social Services will have more work to do.

Sound familiar?

It's the state version of one Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James proposed locally last year.

Democrats shot it down.

"Frankly, I think it's a smart move to make by the Republicans in Raleigh to do this," said Bill James, a Mecklenburg County Commissioner.

James says the bill would target fugitives and illegal immigrants on welfare.

DSS knows who's in the country illegally. They don't qualify for services, but their U.S. born children do.

Still by law, the agency can't report an applicant's immigration status to federal authorities unless it knows of a formal order of deportation.

House Bill 28 would change that – making it legal to report illegal immigrants to authorities.

"Instead of people getting arrested, it's anybody who applies for welfare," said James.

Board Democrats opposed James' idea last year.

It set off a fire storm on both sides of the issue.

Opponents claim it violates privacy rights.

Yet, the bill has picked up momentum in the North Carolina General Assembly and Republicans think it has a good shot at becoming law.