By Andrew Soboeiro
It’s been just over a year since Roy Cooper became Governor of North Carolina, and he’s already had a profound impact on the state. From signing “Britny’s Law” to presiding over a partial repeal of the anti-transgender “Bathroom Bill” to convincing Triangle Tyre to open a plant in Edgecombe County, the new governor has influenced the Tar Heel State in every way he can. This influence extends to immigration, an area where state governments are uniquely situated to resist the edicts of the Trump administration. In considering Cooper’s overall impact, it’s important to take into account his actions on immigration, such as:
Pushing Back against the Muslim Ban
Cooper’s most significant action on immigration has arguably been his opposition to Trump’s Executive Order 13769, popularly known as the “Muslim Ban” or “Travel Ban.” Signed on 27 January 2017, this order temporarily banned visitors and immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Cooper immediately criticized this move, arguing that it would make American soldiers and communities less safe. With his support, Attorney General Josh Stein joined sixteen other states and the District of Columbia in suing the Trump Administration to lift the ban. This lawsuit and others like it caused the courts to temporarily block the travel ban, limiting its initial impact.
In protesting the ban, Cooper attracted criticism from conservative media outlets, which claim he supported similar measures in 2015 while serving as Attorney General. The governor disputed this, arguing that he called for more thorough screening of refugees rather than a ban. But regardless of his past views, Cooper has taken a clear stand against the Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim immigration policies.
Because the state legislature has strongly opposed his actions, the governor has had limited opportunity to pass legislation on immigration issues. Nonetheless, he has continued to influence immigration policies through his words and official actions. Notably, when the Trump Administration rescinded DACA, Cooper joined a group of 10 other governors in writing a letter demanding that Congress protect the program’s participants. Signed by both Republican and Democratic governors, the letter may help sway the ongoing fight over this signature immigration policy.
Not all of Cooper’s actions have been pro-immigrant. The governor has been criticized by progressive groups for signing a bill that prevents immigrant farmworkers from unionizing. Whether Cooper continues to sign legislation like this will likely depend on whether liberal voters pressure him to take a harder line on immigration and related issues. It may also depend on control of the state legislature. As long as the GOP has supermajorities, they can set the agenda for Cooper. But if Democrats gain enough seats that the governor can sustain a veto, he may be able to take more liberal positions on immigration issues.