RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina furniture makers are pushing back after Gov. Pat McCrory suggested they are behind a new law giving employers more time to verify the immigration status of workers.
McCrory made the comments Wednesday shortly after legislators voted to override his veto of the bill, saying manufacturing companies in such towns as High Point lobbied hard in favor of the bill because they want to hire illegal immigrants. The legislation extends from 90 days to nine months the period for an employee can work without having his or her immigration status checked against the federal E-Verify database.
While backers of the bill mostly cited agricultural interests in arguing for an override of McCrory’s veto, the governor suggested other industries were also involved.
“In fact, some of the manufacturers in towns like High Point worked hard for this bill because they, frankly, want to hire illegal immigrants as opposed to North Carolina workers,” McCrory, a Republican, said Wednesday at a meeting of the N.C. Board of Education.
High Point is known for its heavy concentration of furniture companies and a massive semi-annual home furnishings trade show. Industry executives quickly spoke out about McCrory’s comment, denying furniture makers want to hire workers in the United States illegally.
“I’m not aware of a preference by any home furnishings manufacturer in the High Point area for hiring illegal aliens as opposed to North Carolina citizens,” Jaclyn Hirschhaut, the vice president of public relations and marketing for the High Point-based American Home Furnishings Alliance, told WRAL-TV in Raleigh.
Doug Bassett, chairman of the High Point Market Authority board of directors and president of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. Inc., also weighed in.
“I am not aware of a problem,” Bassett said to The High Point Enterprise.
Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) suggested in an interview with the News & Record of Greensboro that McCrory was referring to United Furniture, a company that wants to expand its manufacturing operation near High Point and add as many as 600 new jobs.
United spokesman Bob Cottam declined to comment about the governor’s remarks or Tillman’s suggestion that the company was involved.
McCrory’s office has denied interview requests about the issue, citing the governor’s busy schedule.