North Carolina Migrant Crisis Is Growing. So Are Democrats’ Anxieties

North Carolina is currently witnessing a notable surge in refugees and immigrants hailing from diverse parts of the globe, especially from nations grappling with violence, persecution, and conflict. In 2023, the state secured the 10th position in the United States for refugee resettlement, with over 1,000 arrivals recorded in the first three months of the fiscal year. Additionally, there’s been a significant uptick in immigrants arriving from the southern border, with hundreds daily from Texas.

While these newcomers bring diversity, skills, and potential to the state, they also pose challenges for local communities and the state government. Meeting the needs of this incoming population requires providing ample services, resources, and opportunities. Moreover, the situation presents a political dilemma for the Democratic Party, aiming to secure the state in recent elections but facing resistance from segments of the population concerned about demographic changes and the impacts of immigration on society and the economy.

Benefits of Immigration for North Carolina

Immigration has proven to be a positive force for North Carolina’s economy and society. Immigrants play crucial roles in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and technology, addressing gaps in the labor market due to an aging and declining native-born population. According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants in North Carolina significantly contributed to tax revenues, with $5.9 billion in federal taxes and $2.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2018. They also wielded a spending power of $14.9 billion. In 2019, immigrants constituted 21.4% of the state’s entrepreneurs and 22.9% of its STEM workers.

Additionally, immigrants and refugees enrich the state’s cultural diversity, bringing diverse languages, religions, traditions, and perspectives. They actively participate in civic and community activities, forming social and economic ties with the native-born population. Their presence fosters global connections as they maintain links with their countries of origin, promoting cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

Challenges of Immigration for North Carolina

Despite the benefits, North Carolina faces challenges in integrating and supporting newcomers, especially those with low levels of education, skills, and resources. Providing accessible services such as healthcare, education, housing, transportation, and legal assistance requires funding, coordination, and planning, which can be strained by the unpredictable influx of migrants. Ensuring the safety and security of newcomers is crucial, as they may encounter discrimination, exploitation, or violence.

Furthermore, immigration presents political and social implications, leading to polarization, resentment, and conflict among different groups. The Democratic Party, advocating for humane and comprehensive immigration policies at the national level, must balance support for immigrants with the concerns of native-born voters. Addressing fears related to jobs, culture, or identity is vital, considering the influence of anti-immigrant rhetoric from some Republican politicians and media outlets. Additionally, the Democratic Party needs to engage immigrants and refugees who may face barriers to voting, such as language, literacy, or documentation.

The Way Forward for Democrats in North Carolina

The migrant crisis in North Carolina serves as both a challenge and an opportunity for the Democratic Party. The party has the chance to showcase its leadership, vision, and values on a pressing and complex issue. Effectively managing the crisis requires providing timely assistance to newcomers and collaborating with federal and local authorities and civil society organizations. Clear and convincing communication about the benefits and contributions of immigrants and refugees is essential, dispelling myths and misinformation spread by opponents.

To connect with immigrants and refugees, the Democratic Party must listen to their needs, empower them about their rights and responsibilities, and facilitate their participation in the political process. This crisis is a test for the party, presenting the potential to win the state in the next elections but also risking loss to Republicans who exploit the issue for political gain. The Democratic Party must demonstrate compassion, competence, and courage, offering a brighter future for all North Carolinians, regardless of their origin, background, or status.

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