Just as the year's state legislative session came to a close, legislators added several provisions into bills intended to curb the flow of illegal immigrants into the state.
The provisions address driver's license security, employment and law enforcement.
The addition of the measures on the final evening of the legislative session surprised some activists for tighter immigration enforcement, who thought the laws would die at the end of the session. Activists for greater immigration enforcement had complained that the Democratic leadership was not addressing a serious illegal immigration problem.
"We really (thought) they were not going to pass anything until the last minute," said William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.
About 390,000 illegal immigrants live in the state, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Democratic leaders have said that immigration is a federal issue limiting their ability to pass enforceable laws. But they say they are actively exploring what states can do, as shown by the passage of these bills.
"Sometimes people urge us to do things that states can't do or would be ineffective to do," said Rep. Joe Hackney, a Chapel Hill Democrat. "But there are other things that we can do and we ought to be investigating those and doing those that make sense."
Legislators passed several bills in the 2006 session hoping to address the growth of the state's illegal immigrant community.
Legislators voted to eliminate the use of the Individual Taxpayer ID Number as a valid identification document for driver's license applicants.
State agencies, beginning next year, will be required to check a federal database to verify that newly hired employees are authorized to work in the United States. School systems have until March to comply.
Local and state law enforcement are now authorized to join a federal program that gives officers the authority to investigate, arrest and detain illegal immigrants.
It's a good first step.