Sunday, December 19, 2010

Local advocates saddened that Dream Act blocked

Vianey Hernandez was crushed.

The young advocate with Action NC's youth group, Dare To Dream, was among the many supporters of the Dream Act hurt yesterday when Senate Republicans blocked an effort that would have given hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants a path to legal residency if they enrolled in college or joined the military.

“It breaks my heart, that my best friend and my little sister are being denied a future. We were all brought here when we were little and this is all we know.”

Jose Canales said “this makes me mad; just because I’m a U.S. citizen I can go to college and friends I’ve known my whole life can’t.

Hector Vaca, a community organizer with Action NC, said the hopes and dreams of millions of youth around the country were crushed as the United States Senate voted 55 to 41 to limit debate and bring the Dream Act to a vote.

"These are not the actions of public servants who claim to represent the will and interests of the American people."

He and other North Carolina advocates were particularly disappointed that Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, voted against the act. She was among five Democrats who joined 36 Republicans in blocking it.

Canales however said this will not discourage him.

"I will work harder to make their American dream come true too. 2011 is the year we make those old politicians in Washington care about us young people.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Could Dream Act actually pass this time?

Charlotte supporters are cautiously ecstatic that the House passed the bill.

The fate of the
Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act now rests with the Senate. Supporters and Opponents are on edge.

The Dream Act has been on the Congressional table since 2003. The last time the Senate voted on the Dream Act was in September when it failed to get the necessary 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.

That vote was 52 to 44. The vote this morning is likely to be as close.

The House surprised many by passing the measure. Some 38 Democrats joined Republicans voting against the measure, but eight Republicans voted for the measure.

William Gheen, president of ALIPAC, called those Republicans “turncoats.”

“The he chances amnesty will pass the senate in the morning and become law are very high,” he said in an email to members. “To many Americans are relaxed by these unfounded assurances.”

Supporters of the Dream Act meanwhile are cautiously ecstatic.

Locally, students have been rallying around the Dream Act, telling their stories and organizing their peers to make calls to their representatives. Students have sent over 100 letters to Senator Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, alone urging her to support of Dream Act, according to the Latin American Coalition.

Votes by Democrats like Hagan will be key in this vote.

Hagan told the Observer in September that she felt the Dream Act should be considered in the context of comprehensive immigration reform, not as a stand-alone bill."

Lacey Williams, the Youth Civic Engagement and Advocacy Organizer at the Latin American Coalition, said the vote was encouraging.

“The fate of thousands of young students' futures is on the line tomorrow. All eyes are now on the Senate.”

UPDATE 11 a.m.: The Senate voted 59 -40 to postpone a decision on the Dream Act. A new vote is expected week.

Photo: C.M. GUERRERO, EL NUEVO HERALD -- Undocumented students march in downtown Miami in support of the DREAM Act.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Puerto Ricans celebrate holiday

The Puerto Rican Cultural Society of Charlotte is hosting its 3rd Gala Parranda Navideña. It's a Christmas Party. n Friday, Dec. 10, at the South Charlotte Banquet Center in Ballantyne.

The 7:30 p.m. to midnight event will include authentic food, music and dancing. L
ive music with Orquesta Mayor and Los Coquies de Charlotte. Proceeds will fund the new 2011 PRCSC Scholarship Program. Tickets are $50.00 per person for non-prcsc members and $45 for members. They can be purchased online at For more information, visit the website or call (980) 230-5759.

"Join us for a great evening of authentic PR food, music and dancing," said Maggie Giraud
President of the Puerto Rican Cultural Society

Friday, December 3, 2010

What will Charlotte look like in 2020?

A group of Hispanic entrepreneurs are seeking to find out.

The National Hispanic Entrepreneurs’ Organization has invited Mayor Anthony Foxx, AT&T NC president Cynthia Marshall, and Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber, among others, to meet at Discovery Place Tuesday evening to discuss Charlotte’s future over the next decade.

Some 200 people are expected to attend the 6:30 p.m. event. The panelist will discuss increasing and retaining jobs, education, energy sources, and building a stronger community.

Juan Pablo Giometti, president of the NHEO, said that he hopes to capture the spirit around the schools documentary "Waiting for Superman" and encourage people to take a greater role in improving their community.

"The core of the program is about the demographics change, and how minorities should get prepared to succeed in the knowledge economy," he said.

Confirmed speakers include:

Anthony Foxx, Mayor, City of Charlotte (Sustainable Charlotte. Smart Grid)

Cynthia Marshall, President, AT&T NC (JET Agenda: Jobs, Education, Technology)

Bob Morgan, President, Charlotte Chamber (Charlanta, Powerhouse Mega-Region)

Miguel Galarza, President and CEO, Yerba Buena Construction Engineering (Giving Back)

Juan Pablo Giometti, President and CEO, NHEO (Accelerating Social Impact)

Richard Purcell, Community Development, NHEO (Building a Global Community)

Julius Hollis. Chairman and CEO, Alliance for Digital Equality (Bridging the Digital Divide)

Robert Corbin, PhD, VP of Learning Experiences, Discovery Place (STEM Education)

Franco Londono, NHEO Entrepreneur, Singer and Songwriter (Living with Purpose)

Juliana Luna, NHEO Entrepreneur, Luna's Living Kitchen (Future Food)

For more information, visit or call (704) 909-7945.

Q&A: An undocumented student's journey to get a degree

Four years ago, Sem Moreno was one of the first Charlotte students to openly discuss his immigrant status when explaining how difficult it was for undocumented students like him to further their education.

The Concord High graduate was able to continue his education with the help of supporters, but he says thousands can’t and won’t unless Congress passes bills like the Dream Act. As Congress continues to debate the bill that would give young illegal immigrants a chance at residency status if they attend college, we caught up with Moreno, now 24, to talk about his long battle to continue his education.

You wrote a book in 2004 called "Do Not Leave Us Behind" about the perspectives from 15 Hispanic students like yourself who have grown up in the U.S., but have limited opportunities because of their immigration status. You even sent a copy to President Bush. The situation today is pretty much the same. Still no Dream Act. Do you feel you were left behind?
In terms of the legislative bill proposal, Dream Act, things seem to be about the same and stuck in congress. No, I do not feel left behind. Personally, I feel I defied time and fate by fulfilling my purpose and ambitions.
How were you able to continue your college education without legal residency?
I was fortunate to receive financial assistance from non-profit organizations and from Queens University of Charlotte, a private institution, from which I obtained my degree.
You were one of the first students to come out about your residency status and advocate for yourself. You knew the risks. You could have been deported? Why take the chance?
The media has given us, immigrants, a deteriorating name and portrays our image as negative or as that of a criminal. Because we rarely hear about the contributions and accomplishments of the Latino community I decided to share my story hoping for you to see the other face of America, immigrants, from a different perspective.
Today, more students are following your lead. Should they be more concerned about the possibility that they could be deported?
No. I believe students should be more concerned about becoming skilled professionals than fearing deportation.
Why is it important for them to speak out?
It is imperative for these students to speak out because change will not happen unless they take the lead. Legislators must know 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools across America each year who are unable to attend higher education.
Are you continuing to do advocacy work?
Lately, I have been playing the role of a spectator as supposed to that of a gladiator. Last year I started exploring opportunities to further my education in a different country.
How do you feel that the Dream Act has yet to be enacted?
A whole generation of bright individuals is being placed in limbo. And I am disappointed that congress has not been able to pass this bill since 2001.
The Dream Act is currently being discussed in Congress. Do you think it has a chance of passing before the end of the lame duck session after which new legislators take over?
I think the Dream Act has the same possibilities of passing now as it did 9 years ago.
What's next for you?
Canada is next for me. I have been accepted in a M.Sc. program in immunology (research) at the University of Manitoba. I will be living in Winnipeg. After completing my graduate program I would like to continue doing research and to teach at the college level.
Would you like to return to the Charlotte?
Charlotte is like home to me. It would be great to visit the many people who supported and believed in me throughout my 10 year journey in the U.S.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Students gather tonight for Dream Act Vigil

Students plan to meet outside U.S. Senator Kay Hagan’s Charlotte office this afternoon at 5 p.m. in hopes of urging her to support the Dream Act.

The Dream Act is up for debate as Congress attempts to push through several initiatives during the lame duck session before new legislators arrive next year. The Dream Act would give thousands of young illegal immigrants who have attended U.S. high schools a chance to gain legal residency if they attend college or serve in the military.

Hagan told the Observer in September that she felt the Dream Act should be considered in the context of comprehensive immigration reform, not as a stand-alone bill."

Advocates say as many as 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school with no options to further their education. The Dream Act has received some bipartisan support. There is more sympathy for the kids who supporters say shouldn't be punished for the errors of their parents.

But opposition is strong. Those against the Act argue passing it will only add more incentives to illegal immigrants to come here and create unfair competition with U.S. citizens and residents for college seats.

“In less than a decade, this reality could easily double or triple the more than 2.1 million green cards that will be immediately distributed as a result of the dream act,” U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions wrote in his report, “Ten Things You Need To Know About S.3827, Dream Act.”

The vigil:

What : Candlelight Vigil for Broken Dreams
When: December 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm
Where: Outside Senator Hagan’s Charlotte office.
Who: United 4 the DREAM and NC Equals
Contact: Elver Barrios, United 4 the DREAM, 704-726-3346; Lacey Williams, NC Equals, 904-571-7800

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bluegrass meets Mariachi...

Some things can only happen in the south....

The musical traditions of mariachi and bluegrass will meet in a free one-hour concert this evening at the Great Aunt Stella Center on Elizabeth Avenue, near Central Piedmont Community College in uptown Charlotte.

I can't say I know much about bluegrass or mariachi music. But the organizers offered an interesting and educational write up about the background of both musical styles.

Here is an edited excerpt:
Back in the 1930s, two tradition-based stringband styles came of age - bluegrass in the U.S. South and mariachi in central Mexico. Today both are part of the New South musical landscape of Charlotte, NC.
The evening's bluegrass ensemble brings several of this region's top pickers together on stage for the first time. Guitarist Jack Lawrence tours internationally with flatpicking legend Doc Watson and as a soloist. Glen Alexander on fiddle captured first prize at Galax this summer, his third win at that prestigious fiddlers festival. David Grant on bass is best known his work with Charleston's Southern Flavor. Randy DeBruhl on Scruggs-style banjo won the top banjo prize at Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, TN.

The bluegrass music that they'll play is often thought of as "traditional," but a better description would be "tradition-based." In the late 1930s and 1940s, Southern fiddle music moved from the family farm to cities and the new medium of radio. Kentucky farm boy Bill Monroe, playing first on Charlotte's WBT then on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, speeded up old-fashioned picking and added the punchy new sound of the five string banjo as played by North Carolina innovator Earl Scruggs. Performed by polished professionals decked out in matching outfits and cowboy hats, bluegrass swept the South and won eager listeners beyond.
Like bluegrass, mariachi has deep roots in rural stringband playing, then came to town in the 1930s. It may have been born in the state of Jalisco in central Mexico, where instrument makers developed two special variants on the Spanish guitar - the vihuela, smaller and higher-pitched, ideal for the rhythmic chording that drives mariachi, and the giant bass guitarrón, fretless with gut strings that project a solid thwump. The rhythm players supported the lead instrument, the violin. Then in 1934 a Jalisco band, Mariachi Vargas, moved to Mexico City to play for the inauguration of beloved "peoples' president" Lázaro Cárdenas. Musical director Rubín Fuentes added trumpets for punch, dressed his players in stylized charro cowboy uniforms with embroidered waist-length jackets, and forged a polished sound that took all of Mexico by storm.

Gabriel Sanchez, from the town of Toluca (between Jalisco and Mexico City) leads Mariachi Los Gavilanes ("The Sparrowhawks"). His trumpet is joined by the violin of Eifrain Martinez, Rogoberto Silva on guitarrón, and Anzelmo Alaweter and/or Alfredo Jimenez on vihuela. Each played in bands elsewhere in the U.S. - Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles - before getting together here in Charlotte.
The event is part of the regular monthly gathering of the Charlotte Folk Society. It's free and open to the public. It's being sponsored, in part, by a grant from the Arts & Science Council, and co-sponsored by Levine Museum of the New South and Latina 102.3 FM / Norsan Multimedia.

Parking is also free. Doors open at 7 pm and the music starts at 7:30. Questions? Visit or call 704-563-7080.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Duke professor films the immigrant journey

Anthropology professor Charles Thompson's documentary traces the path of thousands of Guatemalans who migrated to one small town in Florida.

The professor and filmmaker teamed up with The North Carolina Council of Churches to make “Brother Towns/Pueblos Hermanos.” It tells the story of two towns Jacaltenango, Guatemala and Jupiter, Florida that have been linked by immigration.

Click here to visit the film's website and watch a 12 minute preview.

Thompson will be showing the film as part of a statewide tour starting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Levine Museum of the New South. He was kind of enough to answer some questions about the film.

How did the idea for this film come about? The first Maya person I met was a refugee who came to Pittsboro, NC, where I lived and worked full time on a farm in 1982. I helped teach him English and to learn to drive. From the friendship that developed between us, the refugee, Victor, who later became a US citizen, invited me to live and work in his hometown. By the time I was ready to go, I had returned to graduate school and was already thinking of writing my dissertation about Central America.

Is there a universal theme or story that you're trying to tell? Yes, boiled down to its essence, the story is that we are all family. Borders divide us, but our stories intertwine through unlikely meetings and suddenly we realize that only accidents of birthplace and history are what make our lives different. What if I had been born down there?, as one person in the film asks. It's a simple, but profound, question. Suddenly, if we're paying attention, the idea of pulling up on bootstraps and how one comes by the privilege of wealth become quite complicated. Should we receive everyone in need with open arms? If we do that, we risk being overwhelmed. Perhaps. But wouldn't the availability of jobs, if slim, curtail any additional people trying to come? If one can't make a living somewhere, then one leaves for another option, no? That's what immigration is about for Guatemalans. It's happier to be with family and in one's birthplace, but necessity drives them.

Immigration is obviously a controversial subject. Some will refuse to see the film on the grounds that they'll feel its advocating for people breaking the law? Oh, there are many protesters in the film who get their fair say. This isn't a one-sided diatribe by any means. But it is a study in the meaning of humanitarianism. Do anti-immigrant protesters have good points? Of course! I'm not a filmmaker who makes fun of people who disagree with me. Regarding legalities, we have to look long and hard at ourselves and ask hard questions such as, "why do Latinos harvest our food?" This isn't about people robbing jobs. It's about people being recruited for the worst jobs in society because we want cheap food and we've been willing to look the other way as long as it helps our bottom line. Immigration comes because of a push from the home country but also because of pulls from the receiving country. And I believe there has long been an active pull from the US to Latin America because we know we can get good help that will work cheap and not complain. We're complicit in this arrangement and to blame the workers now when our economy goes sour is simply immoral, especially when it means sending people back into harm's way or separating families, or taking possessions from an immigrant who has worked hard to make a living.

For people who refuse to go see the film, what would you want to say to them? People who "refuse" to see the film have closed not only their minds, but their hearts. I'd say to them, let not your hearts be ruled by the spirit of fear, but by love and concern that doesn't simply extend to an arbitrary line in the sand, but to all the human family. If you could know the Guatemalans I know, you'd see that often it is we who are impoverished by surrounding ourselves with barriers to others. I was a stranger there, and they took me in and made me their family. I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible is a good place to turn. Remember that the man left on the side of the road for dead was rescued and tended to by one who was looked down on in Israel. Samaritans were immigrants -- they were those suspected of ill then. The man left on the side of the road learned something else besides what his society was saying then: about who his neighbor is, and who is his brother. Brother Towns -- sister communities. Think about it as if the positions were reversed. As if you were born there.

For people who come to see the film, what do you hope they take away from it? A deeper look into the lives of a few of the millions whose situations are intertwined with our own. It's not just a story of "them." It's a story of us - all of us.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Twitter shines light on local immigration debate

"@Meckcommish: 'It's halloween time..... Be scared little Democrats....... Bill James is coming.....' "
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James (right) tweeted that message in the midst of a controversial debate over whether the county should report illegal immigrants who seek public benefits for their U.S.-born children.

Commissioner Jennifer Roberts(left) questioned whether James was gloating. In response, James tweeted that he was just reflecting the commentary from the Democrats 'warning' the public about what may happen if Republicans took control of the board. Commissioner George Dunlap had suggested that if Republicans took over the board, the commission would have more people who supported James’ views and perspective.

It was just a taste of the back and forth that was occurring online at the same time of the emotional debate in the government center. When it comes to public meetings, the popular social media service,Twitter, has opened up an entirely new window giving us all another peek into the workings of our county government -- or at least the minds of some of our elected officials.

It's quite interesting to follow, but the one question is should elected officials be playing with their computers/smart phones at all during these meetings? Commissioners don’t typically make comments during public feedback. Should they be tweeting during them? What do you think?

James(@meckcommish) is the most prolific Twitter user among commissioners. (You will need to follow James in order to see his tweets.) He was criticized last night for focusing too much on his Twitter account instead of the conversation. But also Commissioner Jennifer Roberts(@CommishJennifer), who left the meeting early because of a sick child, Commissioner Karen Bentley(@BentleyCommish)(right) and Commissioner Neil Cooksey(@CommishNeil) weighed in online.

“You know, Twitter is great for providing a direct response without all of the back and forth,” James wrote during the meeting.

Here is a rough breakdown of a sample of tweets from last night’s twitterfest. There were simply too many to add all of them. I did my best to capture the conversation in order as it occurred. You can see the entire conversation by linking on the commissioners’ individual Twitter accounts.

(Observer Reporter) AprilBethea: #meckbocc moving up discussion of item 20 in whether county should report undocumented family members of those receiving DSS benefits
AprilBethea: James: action item about "reporting, not deporting," county has obligation to ensure, participate in national security of country
AprilBethea: James amends motion to send letter to dept of Homeland Security & obtain info on how we can privately report info we have to them.
AprilBethea: Cooksey seconded the motion
AprilBethea: Cogdell asks James for "civility in his comments." Came after James says he doesn't know if there are "Osama wannabes"
AprilBethea: James counters, calling out Cogdell for comments about James
Meckcommish: Are the Democrats soft on immigration?
Meckcommish: If individuals are illegal how can we not make sure that they are not terrorists.
Meckcommish: We are to 'comply' with the law by ignoring possible terrorists?
Meckcommish: Not sure where you got the idea that my ancestors were from the Mayflower. My ancestors were from Jamestowne.
Meckcommish: You know, Twitter is great for providing a direct response without all of the back and forth.
Meckcommish: "Change we believe in' - The premise that illegals are entitled to welfare & National Security takes a back seat to law breakers.
Meckcommish: # What illegal acts? Disclosing the NUMBER of illegals on welfare?
Meckcommish: Go Arizona !
CommishJennifer: Bill James wants NC to act like Arizona. So we can get sued by the Federal Govt too? RT @meckcommish: Go Arizona !
Meckcommish: Win or lose - the issue won't go away no matter the result tonight
Meckcommish: Timothy McVeigh?
Meckcommish: Everyone is upset about disclosure but none of them even care about the law.
Meckcommish: The only one that can put a child on the 'wrong path' are the illegal parents.
Meckcommish: parents would be deported with the anchor babies. Happens all the time.
Meckcommish: And the speakers are done. Now for the roasting !!
Meckcommish: I have a dream. That the US will be safe and not scared to enforce the law.
CommishJennifer: #meckbocc. Commissioner Murrey suggesting we add Comprehensive Immigration Reform to our federal legislative agenda. Good idea.
CommishNeil: I am puzzled by the assumption that the children of deported aliens would stay in the community.
Meckcommish: I have a dream. That the US will be safe and not scared to enforce the law.
Meckcommish: It's halloween time..... Be scared little Democrats....... Bill James is coming.....
Meckcommish: Illegal is illegal.
Meckcommish: Anchor Babies is offensive? Why?
Meckcommish: I think turning over the list to ICE would make the US safer
Meckcommish: I would have put it on regardless of the election. The timing was the disclosure of the numbers on welfare
CommishNeil: Cogdell: "Partisanship interferes with good government."
CommishJennifer: Is Bill gloating? RT @meckcommish: It's halloween time.... Be scared little Democrats....... Bill James is coming.....
Meckcommish: @CommishJennifer Not 'gloating' - just reflecting the commentary from D Commissioners 'warning' the public
BentleyCommish: We should not blindly follow federal law when we understand the devasting impact of illegal immigration on our local government.
AprilBethea: RT @MeckCounty: Board says no to Item #20 - asking feds to tell the County how it can report names of illegals who seek County services.

ICE says they'll evaluate, but adds immigration is a federal responsibility

Immigration officials say they're prioritizing their work by first focusing on dangerous criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to our communities.

U.S. Immigration officials were responding to Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill Jamesoriginal proposal to have Mecklenburg County DSS alert immigration authorities when they’ve identified an illegal immigrant who has applied for public benefits for their U.S. born child. Doing so would violate a memorandum of understanding with Department of Homeland Security.

"ICE welcomes partnering with state and local law enforcement and will evaluate this proposed ordinance, but generally believes that enactment of immigration laws is a federal responsibility,” said Ivan Ortiz, a spokesman for ICE.

Last night, after a contentious debate, Mecklenburg County commissioners blocked a scaled-down version of the proposal to seek federal advice on how the county might report undocumented families of U.S.-born children who receive welfare benefits.
James faced dozens of passionate protesters who charged him with playing dirty politics. James said it was a matter of national security.

"We don't know if they're Osama wannabes," he said.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

French Ambassador to visit Charlotte

The Ambassador of France to the United States, Pierre Vimont, will visit North Carolina to meet with elected officials and business leaders to explore new opportunities of cooperation with France.

Vimont first meet with Gov. Perdue in Raleigh and then travel tomorrow to Charlotte to give a talk on trade relations between France and the United States. The talk is being sponsored by the French-American Chamber of Commerce of North Carolina and the Alliance Française of Charlotte.

Vimont will then stay the night in Charlotte and give a presentation at the Charlotte World Affairs Council on French-American cooperation regarding global issues, such as global warming, the fight against terrorism, non-proliferation and disarmament. While in Charlotte, he scheduled to also meet with Jim Rodgers, CEO of Duke Energy, and Chuck Noski, CFO of Bank of America.

Some 3,000 French people live in North Carolina. France exports almost 3 billion dollars worth of goods and services to the U.S. Southeast, mostly in transportation equipment, industrial machinery, wood products, chemicals, electric and electronic products. More than 170 French companies have invested and created new jobs in the region— 60 in North Carolina alone.

Mecklenburg official: DSS should flag illegal immigrants

Commissioner Bill James' proposal is aimed at families of U.S.-born kids who get public benefits.

From the paper:

By Franco Ordonez

The fiery national debate over the cost of illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children will land at the feet of Mecklenburg county commissioners Tuesday night when they discuss a proposal to report undocumented family members of U.S.-born children receiving public benefits.

Commissioner Bill James wants the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services to "ignore state and federal regulations" and alert immigration officials and/or the sheriff's office when it suspects an illegal immigrant has applied for welfare or food stamps for their U.S.-born children.

"We're handing out benefits with a wink and a nod and using 'anchor babies' as cover," James said.

James said he wants to ensure that the illegal immigrants identified are not a national security threat.

Jennifer Roberts, the commissioners' chair, and fellow Democratic commissioner Dumont Clarke said Monday that James's proposal has little chance of passing.

Critics say his plan is against the law and would ultimately hurt U.S. children who rightfully deserve those public benefits. Jess George, executive director of the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, called it "reprehensible."

"Bill James's words continue to be charged with this very anti-immigrant sentiment," she said. "Conflating immigrants with terrorists is not only erroneous and ill-informed, but it also perpetuates the language of hate that continues to be infused in the immigration dialogue."

Under the 14th Amendment, citizenship is automatically granted to children born in the United States. This summer, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined several other Republicans when he proposed introducing a constitutional amendment to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.

A recent study from the Pew Hispanic Center found the number of U.S. children with at least one undocumented parent went from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. More than 70 percent of all children of illegal immigrants are U.S. citizens.

DSS says 5,635 families out of the 61,074 families receiving food stamps in Mecklenburg include at least one unauthorized immigrant. Public benefits to the children of suspected illegal immigrants made up $2.7 million, or 3.4 percent, of the $77 million in total payments to Mecklenburg residents in July, including welfare, food stamps and Medicaid.

DSS checks eligibility for welfare benefits with the help of a federal system known as SAVE. It can also identify an applicant's immigration status.

DSS Director Mary Wilson said the agency is prohibited from reporting an applicant's immigration status to federal authorities unless it knows of a formal order of deportation.

James's resolution would "require DSS to disclose to the Sheriff/ICE/Homeland Security the details of ANY individuals within their files who have been determined to be illegal under the SAVE program."

James said his move was spurred by an e-mail from a DSS staffer who reported that an illegal immigrant mother of a U.S.-born baby can receive 13 months of Medicaid coverage for their newborn and $200 a month in food stamps for the baby.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that these are U.S. children," Wilson said. "The fact that they're born to illegal immigrants is a separate issue. But we're providing benefits to U.S. children."

Sarah Preston, policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina, said if commissioners approve James's motion, they would be opening the county to the risk of expensive litigation.

Similar ordinances around the country, including one in Hazleton, Pa., have been declared unconstitutional and have cost their communities millions of dollars in legal fees, she said.

Roberts said she plans to vote against the measure. She said it's not a good use of taxpayer money in tight economic times to provoke a lawsuit when the county is following federal guidelines and protecting U.S. citizens.

James said the county should not be intimidated by the possibility of lawsuit.

"From my perspective, I'm very comfortable to go to court and have them explain that they know people are breaking the law yet don't submit them to homeland security."
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The GOP's "Pledge to America" on Immigration

You've probably heard about the Republican Party's “A Pledge to America." The pledge includes several points on immigration. Read the full pledge here. Below are the excerpts on immigration.

Providing for the common defense is a not just a priority or political imperative – it is a Constitutional duty. National security is more than just war fighting: it is protecting our citizens, bringing certainty to an uncertain world, supporting those who volunteer in the service of their country and defend our way of life, using every tool to protect Americans from threats at our borders....

Establish Operational Control of the Border: We must take action to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws. We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border and prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.

Work with State and Local Officials to Enforce Our Immigration Laws: The problem of illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels engaged in an increasingly violent conflict means we need all hands on deck to address this challenge. We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws.

Strengthen Visa Security: To stop terrorists like Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, we will require the Department of Homeland Security to review all visa applications at high-risk consular posts and prevent aliens from attempting to avoid deportation after having their visas revoked.

Kudos to Professor Greg Weeks at UNC Charlotte who posted these on his blog. Weeks feels these measures would “entail larger government, more spending, and more judicial activism.”

What do you think?

Monday, September 27, 2010

UPDATE: 400 show up to Mexican mobile consulate

Hundreds of Mexican nationals lined up in the Concord High gymnasium Saturday to apply for Mexican passports and other forms of Mexican identification. Another 30 people protested outside.

Mexican nationals like Adriana Mercado, 18, and Florinda Chela, 20, came with family members to renew their passports and a matricula consular so they could use them for identification and on trips to Mexico.

Consular officials said when Mexican nationals return home, they need valid passports to get back into Mexico. The matricula consular card serves as a second form of picture ID to be used primarily in the U.S. The card also provides proof of identity when enrolling children in school, applying for credit or getting an individual tax identification number from the IRS so Mexican nationals can pay U.S. income tax.

Outside the school, protester James Johnson, president of NCFIRE - short for North Carolinians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement - said he objected to the event being held on school property. He also questioned why the program was necessary.

"If they're in the country legally to start with, they already have the proper documentation," he said.

Read the rest of Kathy Haight's story on the event here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Colbert testifies (sarcastically) before congress

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert testifies in front of congress on the conditions facing migrant farm workers. He delivered quite the sarcastic remarks and angered several legislators who feel the comic disrespected their work on an important issue.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, invited Colbert to testify at a hearing on giving undocumented farm workers the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. Colbert talked about what he called his "vast experience" on the issue after spending a day as a migrant worker on a farm in upstate New York.

The video of his opening statement is above. Here are a few highlights:

"This is America. I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian."

"America's farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables.... "Now, the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, many Americans have already started."

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."

"I'll admit I started my work day with preconceived notions of migrant labor, but after working with these men and women ... side by side in the unforgiving sun I have to say -- and I do mean this sincerely -- please don't make me do this again. It is really, really hard."

"Maybe we could offer more visas to the immigrants, who lets face it, will probably be doing these jobs anyway."

ICE won't attend Mexican consulate event.

Immigration officials have been alerted to the Mexican consulate’s visit to Concord tomorrow to help its citizens apply for passports and IDs.

Ivan Ortiz, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations unit and the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations were contacted. They will not however attend.

“ICE will not have a presence at the event,” he said.

Groups that support greater immigration enforcement plan to protest the mobile consulate event at Concord High School.

Protesters contacted Concord School Board and ICE. They requested that the agency register illegal immigrants.

Officials of the Mexican consulate said no U.S. documents will be provided. They said they will be providing Mexican passports and IDs that can be used only in Mexico. They said Mexican nationals are returning home and need proper Mexican passports and IDs to get back into the country.

Mexican consulate braces for CLT protest

The Mexican Consulate expects protests Saturday when it brings its mobile offices to the Charotte area. Members of the consulate's Raleigh staff will be at Concord High School Saturday morning to help Mexican citizens living in the Carolinas apply for Mexican passports and other forms of Mexican IDs.

NCFIRE has called for its supporters to protest the event.

James Johnson, President of NCFIRE, which advocates for greater immigration enforcement, said in an email that the event is designed for one purpose only -- to "document the undocumented." He says that people in the country legally already have the necessary legal documentation to be here, including passports, green cards, and student visas.

At least one protest supporter has emailed members of the Concord School Board in protest. He also said that he has contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Officials of the Mexican consulate said no U.S. documents will be provided. They said they will be providing Mexican passports and IDs that can be used only in Mexico. They said Mexican nationals are returning home and need proper Mexican passports and IDs to get back into the country.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Democrats pay for ad calling for Ariz.-style crackdown

When it comes to illegal immigration, N.C. Democrats often appear to side more with Republicans than their own party.

The N.C. Democratic Party is paying for a mailer in a state Senate race that calls for "bringing the Arizona immigration crackdown to North Carolina."

Our friends over at the News & Observer report that the mailer was sent on behalf of Senate candidate David Redwine of Shallotte (photo, left), who is in a hot campaign with Republican Bill Rabon of Southport for the seat held by retiring Sen. R.C. Soles.

The mailer reflects another example of how dicey the immigration issue is for Southern Democrats. While the views of urban Democrats are more in line with President Obama, rural Democrats must cater to a more conservative constituency that sees immigrants as competitors for jobs.

I reported last year that polls showed illegal immigration as one of the top concerns among N.C. voters. North Carolina has an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants.

While U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, said at the time that he supports working toward a comprehensive bill that puts undocumented immigrants on a path toward legalization, other Carolinas Democrats in Congress hold positions more like Republicans.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, says she supports comprehensive reform, but has also said she "strongly opposes amnesty" and called illegal immigration "a threat to our nation's security and economy."

U.S. Rep Heath Shuler introduced a bill last year that would require employers to enter a federal program, known as E-Verify, that checks if workers are in the country legally.

U.S. Rep Kissell, whose 8th District includes parts of Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Union counties, joined Shuler when he introduced his E-Verify bill. He said last year that people he speaks with repeatedly question " 'What part of illegal don't we understand?' "

Andrew Whalen, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said the crackdown mailing reflected the views of Redwine, not the party, according to the News & Observer.

"I think the mail piece specifically is a plank in David Redwine's platform on which he is running for the Senate," Whalen said. "There are many viewpoints and many different candidates in the Democratic Party."

The mailer features a photograph of Redwine, a former state House leader, outside a prison talking with a prison guard. The headline reads: "David Redwine wants to throw the book at CEOs who just won't quit hiring illegal immigrants."

In the mailer, Redwine calls for new fines on corporations that knowingly hire illegal immigrants and jail time for CEOs who are repeat offenders.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Dream Act and Colin Powell's immigration bomb

A recap of the latest news on The Dream Act. Legislators will debate the merits of adding the controversial measure to the defense bill this week. The Dream Act would give some illegal immigrant students a chance to become citizens if they complete two years of college or military service.

Colin Powell drops immigration bomb
Associated Press
Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell says illegal immigrants do essential work in the U.S. and he has firsthand knowledge of that -- because they fix his house.

Dream Act has little chance this time around…
Los Angeles Times
The chances that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can deliver on his promise to move the so-called DREAM Act toward passage in the Senate this week range from slim to none. But the announcement that it would be added as an amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill has energized pro-immigrant groups, even as it underlines the fact that there'll be no comprehensive immigration reform any time in the near future. Not this year, certainly, and probably not next year either.

Editorial supports Dream Act
Chicago Tribune
Every year, 65,000 youngsters who are here illegally graduate from high school to an uncertain future. They don't qualify for most scholarships, student loans or resident tuition rates; they also can't legally work here. Those who can afford tuition hesitate to apply for fear of being deported. With no ties to any other country, most end up staying and working underground. U.S. taxpayers, meanwhile, are deprived of the talent and legal labor of hundreds of thousands of young men and women they paid to school.

If we can't amend, enforce:
Los Angeles Times
It would be nice to get rid of the anachronism of birthright citizenship, but that may be practically impossible. So here's an alternative idea: How about enforcing the immigration laws we've got? ...The worst offender, however, has been the Obama administration, which seems to be doing everything in its power to ensure that those numbers continue to rise. It has pushed for amnesty, refused requests to beef up border enforcement, made it difficult to detain illegal immigrants pending deportation proceedings, and waged an all-out courtroom war against legal efforts to slow illegal immigration in Arizona.

Poll results show most in state want illegals barred from public colleges
Athens Banner-Herald
Two-thirds of Georgians want to bar illegal immigrants from attending the University of Georgia and other public colleges, even if they pay out-of-state tuition, according to results from a recent poll. Sixty-seven percent of people polled last week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for the Georgia Newspaper Partnership favor a law requiring proof of legal residency to attend a Georgia college or university, while 22 percent opposed such a law and 11 percent were undecided.

Low poll numbers for Obama on hot topic
Orange County Register (California)
Most U.S. voters disapprove of President Barack Obama's handling of illegal immigration, according to a recent national poll by Quinnipiac University. The poll showed that 60 percent of respondents disapproved of his handling of illegal immigration, while 25 percent approved and the rest didn't know.

Photo: Immigration activists held a rally in May on the campus of the University of Chicago. (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / September 20, 2010)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hatch, former co-sponsor, opposes Dream Act

U.S. Sen Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, says Congress must "regain the faith of the American people" before taking up the Dream Act.

He said congress must first concentrate on securing the border and creating jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this week that he wants to add the Dream Act as an amendment to the upcoming defense policy bill.

The act applies to young people who came to the country when they were under 16 years of age and have been in the country five years. These students would have a chance to apply for citizenship if they complete two years of college or military service.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah Sens. Hatch and Bob Bennett both plan to vote against the Dream Act.

Bennett said he would stand with Reid if the Senate voted on the Dream Act separately from the defense bill.

“I support the Dream Act as free-standing legislation, but putting it in a bill that has a number of objectionable aspects is not something I support,” he said.

Bennett and Hatch are among a handful of Senate Republicans who have previously supported the Dream Act despite some conservatives criticizing the proposal as a form of amnesty.


Obama vows to fight for Dream Act

The Senate has “chance to do the right thing,” the president told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday. Obama said the bill would help young people in the country illegally a chance to attend college or serve in the U.S. military.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this week that he wants to add the Dream Act as an amendment to the upcoming defense policy bill.

The act applies to young people who came to the country when they were under 16 years of age and have been in the country five years. These students would have a chance to apply for citizenship if they complete two years of college or military service.

It’s a tough time for any kind of immigration reform. According to recent polls, most residents seem to be in favor of sending everyone home.

The Dream Act however has some bipartisan support. There is more sympathy for the kids who supporters say shouldn't be punished for the errors of their parents.

Opponents have come out in force against the Dream Act. They argue passing it will only add more incentives to illegal immigrants to come here and create unfair competition with U.S. citizens and residents for college seats.

"The Dream Act would provide amnesty for millions of illegal aliens under the age of 30 who claim they entered the US when they were young and claim they intend to go to college," said William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.

Even supporters of comprehensive immigration reform are a bit nervous. They fear that if the law passes, they may have lost one of their strongest trump cards for passing a more in-depth comprehensive policy that they feel is needed to fix the broken immigration system.

President Obama told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus gala that he would do whatever it takes to support the act’s passage.

An excerpt:
"Now, the Senate is going to have a chance to do the right thing over the next few weeks when Senator Reid brings the DREAM Act to the floor. Keep in mind, in the past, this was a bill that was supported by a majority of Democrats and Republicans. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t receive that same kind of bipartisan support today. I’ve been a supporter since I was in the Senate, and I will do whatever it takes to support the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ efforts to pass this bill so that I can sign it into law on behalf of students seeking a college education and those who wish to serve in our country’s uniform. It’s the right thing to do. We should get it done. "

Thursday, September 9, 2010

SC town drops plan to ban illegal immigrants

A town near Charleston will not ban illegal immigrants from living in the community.

Summerville town councilors voted 4-3 to table an ordinance requiring renters to prove they are American citizens or in the country legally, according to the Associated Press. The ordinance would have required a verification form be filed with the town.

Several council members warned that the ordinance could lead to lawsuits that could cost the town millions.

Councilors voted 3 to 3 on tabling the motion. Mayor Berlin Myers cast the deciding vote.

Some 45,000 people live in Summerville.

Councilman Walter Bailey said last month that the idea was prompted in part by the Obama administration's challenge of the new Arizona immigration law.

A federal judge has blocked key aspects of that Arizona law, but Bailey says his Summerville ordinance is different enough to where he doesn't think the judge's ruling applies.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Charlotte ICE gang team honored

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement gang unit in Charlotte received law enforcement’s Special Achievement Award by the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association.

The NCGIA recognized the ICE gang unit, officially called the Operation Community Shield Task Force, for its success in reducing gang activity throughout the state.

Since Oct. 1, 2009, when the Operation Community Shield Task Force was established, the unit has arrested more than 186 gang members, associates, and immigration violators encountered in the company of gang members or in residences of gang members at the time of their arrests.

The Operation Community Shield Task Force has identified numerous transnational gangs, including Malditos and Mara Salvatrucha 13, operating in North Carolina and the surrounding states.

“We are honored to receive this award from NCGIA and will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to disrupt gang activities,” said Delbert Richburg, assistant special agent in charge of ICE’s HSI office in North Carolina.

Latinos to pick up litter across city

Fifth annual event Saturday expected to draw 400 volunteers who will work in teams.

From the Paper:

By Franco Ordoñez

Hundreds of Latinos, armed with litter sticks and garbage bags, are expected to hit the streets Saturday to help clean the city.

Some 400 volunteers are expected to take part in the fifth annual citywide cleanup organized by Jesus Ministry. It's intended to help the Charlotte community educate local Latinos on American culture - and to combat negative stereotypes.

"The Latino community is concerned about the place that we live in," said Maudia Melendez, head of Jesus Ministry. "We are part of the tapestry of the community. And we need to make sure that we've contributed - even in little ways - like keeping the streets clean."

Volunteers will be concentrating on trash and recycling, but Melendez said there is a greater message with their work.

The Latino community cares about ridding the streets of all types of garbage, whether it's litter or crime.

On Saturday, teams of volunteers will be dispatched to more than a half-dozen sections of the city, including uptown, Elizabeth Avenue, Central Avenue, and Sugar Creek Road to pick up litter and recyclables.

Jake Wilson, executive director of Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful, is helping coordinate activities and providing tools for the group.

"It's just tremendous for the Latin community to give back and take ownership of some of the (areas) that need cleaning, throughout Charlotte and the county," he said. "If we had more communities like this it'd make my job a lot easier."

Subscribe to The Charlotte Observer.

Read more:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

American Muslims Launch PSA To Counter Anti-Islam Sentiment

A new public service announcement by a Muslim-American group promoting tolerance features a doctor, a police officer, a little girl, someone who is deaf, and a Phillies fan.

They're all Muslims. And they emphasize they're all Americans.

"I don't want to take over this country," the people say in the ad. "I don't support terrorism of any form."

The group behind the ad, My Faith My Voice, says the PSA is part of a grassroots effort by American Muslims from across the country to present their voice on issues affecting Muslims and Islam in America.

I haven't seen it broadcast in North Carolina yet, but I'd be interested to know if someone else has seen it played in the Carolinas.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Flow of illegal immigrants in N.C. falling

A new study finds that the number of illegal immigrants in North Carolina has dropped more than 100,000 people since 2006.

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that about 250,000 illegal immigrants live in North Carolina. That's a significant drop from the 390,000 illegal immigrants the Pew Hispanic Center estimated to be living in the state in 2006.

The state numbers reflect a nationwide trend that show the number of illegal immigrants has dropped 8 percent to 11.1 million.

The new estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center reports that the decrease represents the first significant reversal in the growth of the illegal immigrant population over the past two decades.

The center's analysis also found that the most marked decline in the population of unauthorized immigrants has been among those who come from Latin American countries other than Mexico. From 2007 to 2009, the size of this group from the Caribbean, Central America and South America decreased 22%.

Other major findings of the report include:
• Unauthorized immigrants accounted for 28% of the nation’s foreign-born population in 2009, a decline from 31% in 2007.
• Mexico accounted for 60% of unauthorized immigrants in 2009, or 6.7 million people. Other Latin American nations accounted for 20% of the total, or 2.2 million people. South and East Asia accounted for 11% of the total, or 1.2 million people.
• In 2009, 59% of unauthorized immigrants resided in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and New Jersey. However, the share living in those states has declined from 80% in 1990, as unauthorized immigrants have dispersed to new settlement areas.
• Nearly half of unauthorized immigrants living in the country in 2009—47%, or 5.2 million people—arrived in 2000 or later.
• The number of male unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 6.3 million and declined to 5.8 million in 2009. The number of female unauthorized immigrants, 4.2 million in 2009, is roughly the same as it was in 2007.
• The number of children who are unauthorized, 1.1 million in 2009, declined slightly over the decade. By contrast, the population of U.S.-born children with at least one unauthorized parent nearly doubled from 2000 to 2009, when they numbered 4 million.
• There were 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force in 2009, or 5.1% of the total. The size of the unauthorized labor force peaked in 2007 and declined in both 2008 and 2009. There were 7 million unauthorized immigrants employed in March 2009.
• States with the largest shares of immigrants in the labor force are Nevada (9.4%), California (9.3%), Texas (8.7%) and New Jersey (8.7%).
• The unemployment rate for unauthorized immigrants of all ages in March 2009 was higher than that of U.S.-born workers or legal immigrants—10.4%, 9.2% and 9.1%, respectively.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Charlotte ambulance delivered to Haiti hospital

It took six weeks to get the ambulance out of customs, but a Charlotte ambulance was finally delivered to a Haitian hospital this week.

Members of Charlotte’s Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti delivered the ambulance to staffers at Justinien University Hospital in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. The ambulance with over 200,000 miles was formerly used by Mecklenburg county's emergency medical service department.

The Charlotte rescue team purchased the vehicle for $3,000 this spring as part of a county auction. It was transported by ship to Haiti in June, but got stuck in customs because of incomplete paperwork.

“What a bliss,” Dr. Jean Gracia, medical director of Justinien University Hospital, wrote in a thank you letter to the team and city of Charlotte. “...My staff and the patients are very grateful and lucky to have organizations like yours thinking about their well-being when they are most vulnerable. The quality of care has improved tremendously due to the newly received donations.”

Fort Mill paramedic Thomas Hall, a member of the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti, will travel back to Haiti in the coming weeks to help train Justinien staff on how to use and operate the ambulance.

For more information about the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti, or to help, visit or contact

Monday, August 16, 2010

Does 14th Amendment apply to illegal immigrants?

This is not the first time that the law that gives 'birthright citizenship' to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants has come under fire.

We wrote about efforts by U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia to change the law last year.

But a new effort has gained steam recently since S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham waded into the controversy. It’s quite a move for the Republican Senator who has long worked with Democrats in search of a compromise on immigration reform.

The newest research on the "birthright citizenship" debate by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the offspring of unauthorized immigrants.

In editorial by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the writers argued that the United State simply needs to enforce the 14th Amendment's plain language. They say the second clause of the 14th Amendment (emphasis added below) straightforwardly denies birthright citizenship to newborns of illegal immigrants:
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."
Pew found that illegal immigrants comprise slightly more than four percent of the adult population of the U.S., but because they are relatively young and have high birthrates, their children make up a much larger share of both the newborn population (eight percent) and the child population (7 percent of those younger than age 18) in this country.

The Center for Immigration Studies took a look at the Pew’s findings. The enforcement advocacy group found that not only was the U.S. border porous for adult illegal immigrants, but also for young illegal immigrants.

“Mentioned, but not stressed, in the media coverage of the Pew study is one fact: there are 1.1 million foreign-born children of illegal alien parents. They are all 17 or younger. The strong implication is that almost all of them are in illegal status,” David North wrote for the Center.

North said most probably entered as toddlers without inspection along with their parents. Others may have come on tourist visas that expired.

"These 1.1 million children are a quiet proof of the laxity of our border controls," he said.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Man accused of raping children flagged as an illegal immigrant

In case you missed it, here is a link to my colleague's story about the Charlotte man who is accused of raping children ages 7 and 8. After receiving a tip from one of our frequent posters, Ghoul, we contacted the sheriff's department and learned that they had an immigration detainer on Ricardo Velasquez. One of our cops reporters, Cleve Wootson, took it from there.

Man accused of raping children ages 7 and 8
Suspect who's jailed in south Charlotte case has also been flagged as an illegal immigrant.

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

A man accused of raping two children in south Charlotte Sunday night has been flagged as an illegal immigrant in Mecklenburg jail.

Ricardo Velasquez was in jail late Wednesday. He was given a $170,000 bond but was also being held by immigration authorities after sheriff's deputies identified him as an illegal immigrant under the 287(g) program.

Velasquez, 40, was charged with two counts of rape on a child under 13, two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child, and two counts of first-degree sex offense on a child. The children were ages 7 and 8, according to a police report.

Read more:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SC town seeks to stop illegal immigrants from moving in

A town near Charleston is considering a proposal that would prevent illegal immigrants from living in the community.

Summerville town councilors are expected to consider an ordinance today that would prevent illegal immigrants from living in the town of 45,000 people and in most cases keep them from working here, according to The Post and Courier.

Councilman Walter Bailey says the idea was prompted in part by the Obama administration's challenge of the new Arizona immigration law.

A federal judge has blocked key aspects of that Arizona law, but Bailey says his Summerville ordinance is different enough to where he doesn't think the judge's ruling applies.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Charlotte resident: 'Why I am boycotting Arizona'

There has been a lot of talk about people boycotting Arizona following passage of its tough new immigration law. Some of those people include Charlotte residents Edith Garwood and her family.

They had been planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, but decided to cancel the trip once Arizona passed a law that made illegal immigration a crime and required police to check the status of immigrants believed to be in the country illegally. (A federal judge has since temporarily blocked the police requirement until it can be studied further).

Garwood wrote a letter to the Arizona hotel where the family planned to stay and explained why they were canceling. She shared the letter with me and also explained to me the reasoning behind her decision.

Why cancel your trip?
We decided to change our vacation plans because once I heard about SB1070, I was afraid for members of my family and brought it up for a vote one night at dinner. Although we are all U.S. citizens, there are members of my family with darker skin and anyone who looks into SB1070 can tell that it could be easily abused and most likely would be abused. Why go to a place where there was any chance of being harassed simply based on our looks?

Why write a letter?

We decided to go elsewhere and make a point that we were specifically boycotting the state so I wrote a letter to notify the resort that we would not be coming for a week of vacation. Boycotts don't do any good unless you let the target know why people aren't buying something. We realize Arizona has some serious and legitimate issues to deal with, but SB1070 is not a well thought-out law and not the solution.

How does the recent decision by a federal judge to temporarily block some of the more controversial parts of the law impact your plans?
The judge's decision hasn't changed our minds because the injunction only puts a hold on some aspects of the law; it doesn't suspend the law completely or guarantee that the abusive parts would not return. Also, the wide support of the law in Arizona makes Arizona look like a place not welcoming or accepting of diversity or those who may look different, so why go there when there are other great areas in America to visit?

May 29, 2010

Hyatt Pinon Pointe
1 North Highway 89A
Sedona, Arizona

To Facility Manager,

My family had been planning a ‘Grand Canyon vacation’ since December 2009. After some research, we knew we wanted to stay in Sedona because of its beautiful landscape and convenience to many activities in the area.

I started searching Sedona facilities because we have a family of five (5) made up of two adults and three (3) teen-agers – so we needed plenty of space. I had sent an email to my husband saying that I had found the perfect location – the Hyatt Pinon Pointe resort.

I looked up the email and this is what I had written, “There was one place that stood out as having everything we might want to be comfortable with three teen-agers and I've copied in the link below. It has two bedrooms with plenty of beds/sofabeds, it has a kitchenette, washer/dryer, pool, great view and near tour companies. Going thru a pkg. it was around $#,### for five, but doing it on my own and getting a better flight for us would be $#,### - not a whole lot more. This figure includes round trip for five, 7 nights in the resort and a mid-size car for a week. We would have to add on food and tours. “

Then I included link and the question, ‘Make reservations?’ But as I was in the process of doing all this, I was also reading about the Arizona legislation SB1070. I understand the complexity of the situation and the issues the state faces in trying to combat crime, especially by those who cross the border without papers. I understand that this nation faces some real problems that require some real solutions, but I believe SB1070 is a short-sighted and basically racist piece of legislation that can only lead to more problems.

Our family was ready to spend several thousand dollars in your state this month, much of it at your facility, but we cannot in good conscience support a state with such legislation. I do regret it is your business that has to suffer, but money talks and if enough people who feel like I do at least let the businesses know why they are not coming this summer, maybe the businesses will contact their elected officials to report the negative results and demand change.

I realize you are probably very busy at this moment with guests, but I wonder how many others would have come to Arizona and your facility, but just haven’t taken the time to write and let you know that they are not coming. Boycotts are more effective when the business/state you are boycotting is made aware of the fact that you are boycotting so this is my official notice that we had made up our minds and had really wanted to vacation in Sedona, AZ this summer, but cannot do so with a good conscience and so are boycotting the state and by extension – your business.

Thank you. May SB1070 be repealed and a more just and fair solution be found soon so those of us who want to visit your great state can do so without hesitation.

Edith Garwood
Concord, NC