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Commissioner George Lucier repeats the same meaningless arguments without addressing the real issues

By DJ Kelly
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County Commissioner Lucier sent a statement to the Chatham Conservative Voice on Wednesday about withdrawing from a public forum the group was sponsoring for Thursday evening. The statement was made public yesterday. Here is a rebuttal of the argumentts made in that statement.

Quote: I had originally agreed to participate in a panel discussion sponsored by the Chatham Conservative Voice (CCV), scheduled for the evening of February 26. I did so with the understanding that this would be a forum where local people could have a civil discussion about the 287(g) program as well as many other critical issues facing Chatham County, such as: school funding, the capital improvement program, budget priorities, economic development, revaluation issues, and implementation of the land use plan.


This was always promoted as a forum on the Resolution, not about general issues. It was not intended to be specifically about 287(g) but also about why they felt the need to pass a Resolution. Something that they still have not addressed.

I cannot support your Resolution and feel it was irresponsible and has needlessly harmed our community.

Quote: However, in the past week, several outside groups not affiliated with CCV have actively promoted this meeting with their own flyers and email lists, using inflammatory language. For example, NCFIRE has widely promoted the meeting to a long list of state/national organizations, including ALI-PAC, NC Minutemen Patriots and the Asheville Action Club. They have stated in their flyers that the purpose of the meeting is “fighting back against Chatham County” and have declared that “most terrorists are also illegal aliens.” These communications have effectively undermined the efforts of CCV and local residents to have a civil discussion about various issues.


Let's see, they didn't have a problem with outside support from:
  • El Pueblo,
  • ACLU,
  • Southern Coalition for Social Justice,
  • North Carolina Justice Center,
  • City of Durham Human Relations Office,
  • Orange County Human Rights/ Relations Office.

Nor the fact that members of our Human Relations Commission include:
  • the founder of the Hispanic Liaison,
  • the former Advocacy Director of El Pueblo and registered lobbyist
  • a current employee of the NC Justice Center

Quote: Given that the meeting is being used by outside groups and promoted as something not originally intended. I will not participate in the forum on Thursday evening. However, as the chair of the Board of Commissioners, I am happy to talk with local residents individually or in other local groups, using a format that is not dominated and emotionally charged by outside influences. Sally Kost, vice chair of the commissioners, and I propose to meet with CCV and/or members of the local Republican Party to discuss their views on issues of importance to Chatham County.


Heather has done her best to control any outside groups and since it's to be a moderated forum, there's no reason to expect them to have any undue influence even if any do show up. There were no restraints on who could show up and speak at the last BoC meeting.

I sent a detailed email to all the commissioners explaining my concerns about the resolution and only Sally Kost replied after I sent a second email on a different issue to acknowledge my thorough research on the subject. But I have yet to receive any answers to my questions and concerns from any of the commissioners.

Quote: A large number of people did attend the last Board of Commissioners meeting on Feb. 16 to share their views on the 287(g) resolution, with a substantial majority stating their support of the commissioners’ position. Based on the massive discussion on the Chatlist, it was clearly recognized by all sides that public input on this issue was slated for Feb. 16.


I had intended to attend that meeting but could not do so because of illness. I was undecided whether or not to speak since I had already sent the commissioners much more information that I could express in three minutes. Since is was just supposed to be a 30 minute public input session I was more interested in the upcoming CCV forum where some of my questions might actually be answered.

Furthermore there was no opposition to outside supporters expressing their opinions although there were at least a few present at the meeting.

Quote: The 287(g) issue also has been covered widely by the local news media (TV, radio and newspapers) and I have given at least 15 interviews on the topic, including two that were detailed front-page articles. Examples are the Feb. 5 issues of The Chatham News & Record and The News & Observer. By now, the reasons for the Board of Commissioners adoption of the 287(g) resolution should be clear.


Actually, they are not. You continue to repeat the same meaningless arguments but have yet to address the real issues. We did not qualify for 287(g), no one was pushing for 287(g) so why waste time and energy on a worthless resolution that changed nothing but divided the community and questioned the integrity of our local law enforcement agencies.

Quote: Below is a statement on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, which summarizes the factors and statistics behind the county commissioners’ adoption of the resolution.

STATEMENT BY THE CHATHAM COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Summary of the Reasons Why the Board of Commissioners Adopted a Resolution
Opposing County Participation in the Federal ICE 287(g) Program

· It is costly. According to Sheriff Webster, we would have to build a new detention center to participate in ICE. The Johnston County sheriff is asking for $30 million to build a new jail. The Commissioners would rather build schools than jails. North Chatham Middle School is 40% over capacity. We could not afford the new middle school if we had to build a new jail in these difficult financial times.


We have needed a new detention center for years. I sincerely hope you are not going to use this now as an excuse not to consider building one.

Why should it matter to us what Johnston County is doing? We are more concerned with the issues that effect Chatham County, not Johnston.

I'm glad you're so happy to build schools instead of jails. Maybe if there was more enforcement of immigration laws we wouldn't have to build those schools either. But we don't really know because you never even considered the issue.

While we need a new jail, everyone understands that these are tough times and priorities need to be set. No one was screaming for a new jail so that reasoning for the resolution is meaningless.

Quote: Moreover, when undocumented parents are deported, the children left behind often must be placed in foster care, at a major cost to the county.

 

How many children are we caring for now that are illegal immigrants or children of illegal immigrants? Any illegal immigrant can be deported at any time, they know this yet still chose to enter this country anyway. They are the ones putting their children at risk. How many children are in foster care because their parents are in prison? Should we ignore the laws they broke so we don't have to pay to take of their children?

Quote: Because of difficult financial times, the Commissioners will have to cut some programs—we certainly don't want to start new ones that are costly and ineffective.


No one was actively pushing for the 287(g) program in this county. There was no need to pass a Resolution to not participate. The overwhelming majority of counties and municipalities in the state had the good sense to leave the issue alone.

Quote: It is ineffective in crime prevention. Sheriff Webster and Chief Tyson do not recommend that we participate in ICE because it is not effective. Sheriff Webster and Chief Tyson join with many other law enforcement officials across the nation in believing that 287(g) undermines the trust that law enforcement agencies have worked so hard to establish with the immigrant community. The National Major Cities Chiefs Association has opposed 287(g) participation for these and other reasons.

This is debatable. For every study that questions the effectiveness of 287(g) there is one that supports it. The results are dependent on who wrote the report. I have yet to see any statement from the Major Cities Chiefs Assoc that specifically opposes the 287(g) program. Like almost all of your supporting evidence for the Resolution, their report says nothing about 287(g).

Quote: We would rather put our resources into crime prevention programs that work, like gang prevention. We commend Sheriff Webster and Captain Gardner for their outstanding gang prevention programs. Since Wake County implemented ICE, crime has increased and most of the increase is attributable to gang activities. The BOC also urges the Sheriff to continue efforts to reduce drunk driving and our resolution does nothing to deter his efforts. Moreover, there is evidence that the immigrant community is reluctant to report crimes in areas where ICE has been implemented.


Of course the fact that 80% of the most dangerous Latino gang members are illegal aliens and the fact that we do have Latino gangs in the county means there is no reason to consider additional tools that might be helpful in removing these illegal aliens from our community.

Quote: This resolution does not keep law enforcement from enforcing the law. We fully support Sheriff Webster's enforcement of the law and his efforts to prevent crime. Those committing crimes should be prosecuted and punished. We have an outstanding Sheriff's Office and we are proud of the initiatives that have improved law enforcement in Chatham County.


Again, why pass a resolution that does nothing. The problems with 287(g) come from the unprofessional and illegal actions of local law enforcement agencies that misuse the 287(g) program. The overwhelming majority of your arguments against 287(g) were actually against large scale ICE enforcement actions that had nothing to do with 287(g). The only items that did relate to 287(g) were incomplete and illustrated nothing except possible misbehavior on the part of local law enforcement.

Now you say we have an outstanding Sheriff's Office. If that's the case why didn't you just support their decision to not participate in 287(g) and leave the issue alone. Instead you passed a resolution that does nothing but call into question their intregrity since the only way the abuses you claim occur under 287(g) can occur is if the local law enforcement officers behave in an unprofessional and illegal manner.

Quote: Our support is embodied in the adopted commissioners’ resolution, which states: “Be it resolved that the Board of Commissioners supports local law enforcement in the execution of their duties in the constitutions and laws of the United States, North Carolina, and Chatham County. Be it also resolved that, in continuing its belief of controlling its own destiny… while proudly preserving diverse cultural heritages, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners stands in strong opposition to any local governmental agency contracting with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration laws.”

You oppose ANY local governmental agency contracting with ICE. This isn't just opposing 287(g) since ICE has other programs as well. You don't even specify law enforcement agencies.

Quote: There is considerable evidence that participation in the 287(g) program increases the risk of racial profiling. Please remember that racial profiling is, in fact, a crime. No person should live in fear because of his or her ethnic background. Based on 2008 statistics from participating North Carolina counties, the vast majority of people detained have been those arrested for non-violent and non-felony offenses, especially minor traffic violations (i.e. offenses other than DUIs and other serious traffic violations). This was confirmed by a North Carolina report released in February 2009 by UNC’s Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, which found that racial profiling is one of several major problems resulting from participation in the 287(g) program in North Carolina.

Yes, racial profiling is a crime so why are you so certain that our local law enforcement would start breaking the law that you felt the need to oppose them participating in a program they don't even qualify for?

I have yet to see full statistics that clearly demonstrate racial profiling. Most report statistics in broad categories that include a range of minor to serious offenses. Without a complete breakdown there is no way to know what those numbers truly represent.

The new UNC study does NOT offer clear evidence of how widespread the incidence of racial profiling is or that it is a guaranteed result of the 287(g) program. The report is a POLICY STUDY offering many suggestions to improve the program and not a thorough examination of the facts to determine the effectiveness or failure of the program. Considering 287(g) participation is based on an MOA negotiated by each participating agency it's really the integrity of the agency that is in question, not the overall program.

Quote: This is a voluntary program. Voluntary means that a county can choose to participate or not participate in 287(g). The fact is that 92 out of 100 counties do not participate in 287(g). So the assertion that Chatham County would be a sanctuary county for undocumented immigrants is unfounded.


It is not the non-participation in 287(g) that may make Chatham County a "Sanctuary" county. It is the public announcement via this Resolution that we will do nothing except what we absolutely have to in regards to immigration enforcement while the counties around us are increasing enforcement that may persuade some illegal aliens to settle here. While the majority of illegal aliens come looking for work, the serious criminal element will be looking for the safest place that's still convenient to their markets. Where we sit between the Triangle, the Triad and Charlotte makes us a very tempting location.

Quote: Why would the Chatham County commissioners work to participate in a program that is costly, ineffective, increases the risk of racial profiling?

 

Why would the commissioners want to pass a resolution stating they distrust their local law enforcements ability to fairly do their duty?

Quote: We think that everyone can agree that the federal government’s immigration policy has been a failure and is dysfunctional. We believe that it is wrong to pass that failure on to local governments, which are not equipped to handle federal immigration laws.


Then don't participate in the program if you don't like it. If you feel so strongly that it's a federal issue, why didn't you just leave it alone like the overwhelming majority of municipal leaders did and not insert Chatham County into a national debate on immigration law?

Quote: We adopted the resolution in an open, transparent and deliberate manner. We can assure you that of the 100 counties in the state, Chatham County has dealt with this issue in a more open and transparent way than any county in this state. None of the other 92 counties opting out of the 287(g) program have held a public hearing on the issue. Of the eight counties participating in 287(g), we have heard back from six (two have not responded) that they did not hold a public hearing on the issue before opting into the program and, in some cases, the Board of Commissioners and the public were not notified of law enforcement’s participation.


Participation with 287(g) is a law enforcement issue and should be left up to local law enforcement. Passing a Resolution on behalf of the RESIDENTS of Chatham County involves those residents.

Quote: The Human Relations Commission (HRC) worked on the resolution over a 10-month period and their meetings are open to the public. Moreover, the ICE resolution was part of our Jan. 5 agenda. This agenda was placed on the county website ahead of time and the agenda included the proposed resolution as well as background materials. The HRC talked with the Sheriff on multiple occasions during the 10-month period. He was aware that we were considering the resolution at our Jan 5 meeting and he did not indicate opposition to it. When the BOC considers significant ordinances, which are laws or decisions, we hold public hearings--examples would be subdivision ordinances, budget ordinances, etc. The ICE resolution is not an ordinance; it simply is a statement of our opposition to participating in ICE for the reasons indicated above.


The HRC pushed to get an Office of Human Relations established in this county and a Director of Human Relations hired. They finally succeeded last year. Despite evidence from other counties that had Human Relations departments that suggested a half time position would be good to start with and what the county manager suggested, the Commissioners expanded it to a full time position. They created the department with a total budget of $85,000. At the same time they cut funding for one Sheriff's department position but left it up to the Sheriff to decide what position to cut.

Now most people would expect the brand new director in a brand new department whose job is to improve relations in the community would spend some time getting to know that community. According to the HRC minutes, our brand new director started out at their first meeting in January by handing out some information on an ICE program. It doesn't specifically say what program but I'll assume 287(g) since it's proposed at that meeting to research other county resolutions against the 287G program and then draft a resolution to present to the commission. There is no indication that there was any discussion of pros and cons of the program or consideration of whether or not such a program was being considered in the County.

In July they finally discussed talking to the Sheriff. According to the minutes the Sheriff did express some reservations about the Resolution.

In August there was a member of the public at their meeting that expressed interest in the resolution. Although he asks to see the resolution he is told it's not ready for the public. So much for public input when even supporters are not allowed to see the document. The Resolution is approved later that meeting and it's suggested to present it to the Commissioners at their second meeting in September and that as many HRC members and supporters as possible should be there. There is a minor technical correction made to the Resolution in September but no other publicly available mention of the Resolution until the Commissioners agenda for their January 5, 2009 meeting. A work meeting held on a Monday morning.

So while technically the HRC meetings are open to the public, they do not post agendas, their meetings are usually held in the afternoon, they are not well publicized unless someone follows all the various committee meetings held throughout the county on various issues. The two newsletters the Office of Human Relations published last year did not mention the Resolution at all. One would think that an issue that's so important to the county that it needs a year of study to produce a resolution would have rated some notice in the newsletter.

Quote: Chatham County is a diverse county. Our biggest challenge is to take advantage of that wonderful diversity. Our biggest failure would be if we did not take advantage of that diversity. In Chatham County, we want to honor the diversity we have, not disrespect it.


There are a great many legal immigrants and other diverse individuals in the county and I personally welcome and appreciate them. There are many types of diversity however, and I feel many people are less appreciative of the diversity of people who knowingly break our country's laws and disrespect the legal residents and citizen of the county. We have many programs to help those less fortunate in our community but there is a limit to what our budget can afford. Most people cannot afford to donate to every worthy cause that asks for money but have to decide which they can afford to support.

Passing a resolution that encourages support of people who knowingly break the law without considering all the implications of such an action is irresponsible.

Quote: For these reasons, the Chatham County commissioners have no intention of revisiting our opposition to the 287(g) program.


My responses to your reasons are why I cannot support your Resolution and feel it was irresponsible and has needlessly harmed our community.
 
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Commissioner George Lucier repeats the same meaningless arguments without addressing the real issues
Commissioner George Lucier will be a "no show" at a citizens' public forum.


Related info:
George Lucier's statement to the CCV
 
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