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Chatham Human Relations Director Esther Coleman's ICE resolution "Thank you"

Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - This is a ‘Thank You’ card. On Monday, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners passed the ICE resolution – unanimously. The meeting room was filled with supporters of the resolution.

Most of the CCHRC Members were able to attend – Margie Ellison, Chair; Marisol Jimenez McGee, Secretary/Treasurer, with her beautiful baby in tow; Scott Ford; Ilana Dubester, who has taught me so much about this issue and who helped craft the cover letter; Roy Barnes; and Martin Spritzer. This show of support attests to the strength of their convictions.

Though she was unable to attend, Heather Rodin, CCHRC Vice Chair, was a major catalyst toward developing the resolution from beginning to end. Thanks also to CCHRC Members Jan Nichols and Mary Harris for their important contributions. Past CCHRC Members Ivan Remnitz, now Chair of the Hispanic Liaison/El Vínculo Hispano (EVH) Board; Rev. David Scotton; and Gabriel Soltren helped to develop this resolution when they were still on the Board. And the document is better for their input.

The fact and opinion gathering, research reviewing, engaging discussions, thoughtful deliberations, and incredible persistence of all of the CCHRC members – past and present – brought this resolution to reality. Everyone reading this should know that the entire process spanned many months. I am inspired by the teamwork of this Commission every day.

I want to extend great appreciation and admiration to those who spoke so eloquently before the Commissioners to explain why taking this stand was so important. Those community leaders included the following:

Margie Ellison, our dynamic and dedicated CCHRC Chair
Tony Asion, Executive Director of El Pueblo, who has also been one of my best teachers on this issue and who has a strong law enforcement background as well as vital relationships with officials throughout the state and nation
Ted Dunn, a resident of Fearrington Village
Jerry Markatos, photographer and political writer

Roy Stawsky, from Roca Fuerte Church, who is very active in the community; Martin Spritzer, a CCHRC Member; and Ronald Garcia Fogerty, the Executive Director of EVH; sincerely thanked the Board of Commissioners for taking this stand.

On behalf of the CCHRC, I want to extend our gratitude to each member of the Board of Commissioners – George Lucier, Chair; Sally Kost, Vice Chair; Mike Cross; Carl Thompson;
and Tom Vanderbeck – for their approval of this resolution. They are to be commended for their thoughtful consideration, for their wise and effective modifications, and for their
tireless work toward making this such a wonderful county to live and conduct business in for people from all walks of life.

Rev. Thompson is an incredible liaison to the CCHRC with whom I am privileged to work on an ongoing basis. His help in the development of the resolution cannot be overstated.

There were three of our new Community Civil Rights Educators (CCREs) in attendance at the meeting – Jackie Williams, Megan Bolejack, and Margaret Wurth. Jackie and Megan are County employees, and Margaret works with the North Carolina Rural Communities Assistance Project (NCRCAP). Eliot Raynor from Habitat for Humanity and Marcia Perritt from NCRCAP were there. They and Margaret are also members of the Hispanic Task Force. Marty Rosenbluth, Attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Civil Rights Attorney Elizabeth Haddix; Activist Peggy Misch; Past Board of Commissioners Member Gary Phillips; Shoshannah Smith, Director of the Orange County Office of Human Rights and Relations, who advised us from the very beginning; and Marcia Espinola, Associate Director of EVH were also present. We thank each of you for what you do everyday toward achieving social justice in the Triangle.

Countless others helped along the way, and I want all of you to know how much the CCHRC and I appreciate your contributions. Two of those people were Sheriff Richard Webster and Chief Gary Tyson. They and their staffs – especially Capt. Charles Gardner – have been invaluable resources to us in many ways. This resolution could not have happened without their cooperation and leadership. We are indeed fortunate in Chatham County to have these and all other law enforcement officials and their officers protecting and serving us.

In the likely event that I have missed someone, please know that my memory is no reflection of our deep appreciation for all who cared so much about this resolution that you would leave your homes and workplaces to come out in support of it. If you could not attend, I know you were there in spirit. I truly believe – as Roy Stawsky so passionately expressed – that many people from diverse backgrounds are prouder than ever to live in Chatham County.

I am one of those people.

P.S. This resolution is, in effect, the position which the Chatham County Human Relations Commission (CCHRC) and the Board of Commissioners have taken regarding agreements between local law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration laws. The resolution should be construed as supporting the current stand of Chatham County law enforcement agencies not to participate in these types of arrangements. Ultimately, the resolution is an expressed belief of the CCHRC and the Board of Commissioners – via their vote – that such agreements may lead to violations of civil rights and liberties, the separation of families, racial profiling, and other undesirable results.

Esther B. Coleman

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