Hispanics send loud message
Demonstrate citizenship, legal residency during a parade of solidarity
By DAN PARSONS
Guillermina Ramirez’s message to Beaufort County commissioners was a simple one —a message echoed by others.
Ramirez became a legal resident of North Carolina in 2002. This week, she will obtain U.S. citizenship, she told the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday.
But if she were to seek services at the Beaufort County Health Department, she could be listed as a possible illegal immigrant, if a plan proposed by Commissioner Hood Richardson were to go into effect. In April, Richardson proposed that everyone with a Hispanic surname and seeking certain services at the health department be tallied as an “indicator” of the number of illegal immigrants who use the health department’s services.
Ramirez was accompanied Monday evening by at least 35 other Hispanics — legal residents or U.S. citizens all — who showed up at the board’s regular meeting to protest Richardson’s comments. Those comments were made at a joint meeting of commissioners with the Beaufort County Board of Health last month. The entire crowd applauded Ramirez when she finished her statement, including Commissioner Stan Deatherage.
Group members paraded individually to the podium, each stating his or her name, birthplace and immigration status. Jessica Rocha helped organize the demonstration. When she was called upon to speak during the meeting’s public-comment segment, she deferred her time to the group.
Carla Velasquez delivered her address, entirely in Spanish, to the board. The Rev. Cipriano Moreno, who operates a Baptist Hispanic mission in Beaufort County translated for her. Through him, she told the board that she is a legal, permanent resident of North Carolina.
Narciso Ibanez was born in the Philippines, but he has been a U.S. citizen since 1972, he told the board.
Arturo Carrano said he was born in North Carolina and is a U.S. citizen. Maria Ricca, an immigrant from Guatemala, said she has been a citizen for 22 years. Jose Lopez told the board he came to the U.S. in 1985 and has been a citizen since 2000. They were followed by an immigrant from Nicaragua and several others who were born in Mexico. School-age children spoke to the board, as did men and women who could have been their grandparents.
Richardson defended his push to combat illegal immigration at the local level.
The group’s members were extolled for their solidarity by Commissioner Jerry Langley.