Hispanic community was center of debate in 2008

Published 6:19 pm Sunday, December 28, 2008

By Staff
Cost of illegals was highlighted
Staff Writer
It has been a tumultuous year for Beaufort County’s immigrant Hispanic community.
Perhaps the biggest event was the appearance of protestors in town, pointing out how many legal residents, even American citizens, had last names that sounded Latin American.
The move was prompted by a proposal backed by Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson.
Citing concern about the cost of providing social services to illegal immigrants, Richardson wanted the county’s health department to calculate how many illegal immigrants it served.
His solution: count the number of people with Hispanic surnames.
Richardson has spoken against the costs of illegal immigrants at other times and in other ways, of course, but this one really stirred up a hornet’s nest.
The apparent implication of his plan — that most, if not all, people with Hispanic last names are in the country illegally — upset many.
Richardson’s proposal wasn’t put into action. Among the many other concerns: The U.S. Department of Justice might find it illegal.
Richardson later spoke about the cost of providing English as a second language courses in local schools. And he closely questioned Beaufort County Community College President David McLawhorn about any illegal immigrants enrolled at the community college.
McLawhorn told Richardson that illegal immigrants who identified themselves as such have taken basic skills courses, which are open to everyone. The most popular courses for illegal immigrants were English classes.
The debate mirrored state questions about whether illegal immigrants graduating from North Carolina high schools should be allowed to attend community colleges as in-state students. Both candidates for governor took a negative position on the issue, which has been delayed pending the results of a study.
Later in the year, Helen Marrow, a Harvard-educated researcher originally from Tarboro, gave a presentation on immigration issues at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.
Among several points she raised: Many Canadians immigrate to the U.S. illegally, but aren’t at the center of a furor similar to the one over immigrants from Latin America. She also discussed different forces that influence the migration patterns of immigrants. And she identified opportunities for the community to better itself through the immigration phenomenon.