Commissioners undeterred in illegal immigration fight

Published 12:16 pm Saturday, March 15, 2008

By Staff
Richardson: opposition is from ‘paper tigers’
Staff Writer
Beaufort County commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson said Friday they are undeterred in their efforts to “make sure Beaufort County is not an attraction for illegal aliens.”
Deatherage and Richardson have been leading an initiative to make the county uncomfortable for illegal immigrants, primarily by denying county-provided services to people who don’t speak English or speak very little English.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has condemned some of the measures approved by commissioners and Wednesday the county received a letter listing the concerns of civil-rights watchdogs with the American Civil Liberties Union at the top of the list.
Deatherage said the ACLU, which he calls the “American Communist and Liberals Union,” has gone too far by trying to influence public policy.
Fifteen civil-rights watchdog groups, including the ACLU, voter-rights organizations and Hispanic-advocacy groups, sent a letter to the county Wednesday detailing their concern with the commissioners’ English-only initiative. Richardson said the agencies that endorsed the letter were “paper tigers using intimidation to get what they want.”
Katy Parker, legal director for the North Carolina division of the ACLU, said Wednesday the groups had no plans for legal action, but did not rule out the possibility.
Specifically, the groups contend that the removal of prerecorded Spanish-language options on county phone systems and a resolution that the State Board of Elections not print voter-registration forms in Spanish are violations of federal law. One of the 15 groups, Options to Domestic Violence, a Washington battered women’s shelter, has since withdrawn its endorsement of the letter.
One reason given by Deatherage for removing the Spanish-language option from county phone systems is “they’re never going to learn English if they’re always spoken to in Spanish.” He called the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States a “crisis” that lawmakers will be unable to control if they “don’t do something about it now.”
The civil-rights groups who wrote the county Wednesday, said the measure, and others approved by commissioners, do nothing to encourage English proficiency.
Deatherage said the ACLU wants the United States to become a “veritable Tower of Babel,” referring to the Biblical tower to heaven doomed to failure by an inability to communicate.
Richardson said he and Deatherage would most likely “digest what we’ve already done” before taking any more steps toward combatting illegal immigration in the county.