- Associated Press - Friday, August 8, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Advocates for Latinos in North Carolina say comments on child immigration by Gov. Pat McCrory invoke fear and divide their communities.

“These children, God’s children and our children, are not the real threat,” said Chapel Hill councilwoman Maria Palmer, one of the speakers at a news conference Friday to respond to the governor’s comments. The advocates joined with the NAACP and other community members.

This week, McCrory said North Carolina officials know too little about the influx of around 1200 unaccompanied children who eventually arrived in the state after crossing the Mexican border. The governor defended his earlier remarks later this week, saying federal officials have told the state directly that full and complete background checks aren’t being performed on sponsors.

“I’m talking about true background checks,” McCrory said on Wednesday. “I’m worried about their health and safety and so I would strongly disagree with the one or two people who may have not heard my entire comments and I think are misrepresenting what I said.”

The governor says the state doesn’t know where the children live or whether their sponsors passed true background checks, which would impact social services for state residents.

Advocates said the unaccompanied children are not the real threat to the state when there are communities where families lack health care and children are in poverty while attending underfunded schools.

When the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP approached the podium to speak, he pulled two girls who were holding signs close to him.

“I want these children that Gov. McCrory seems so scared of,” Barber said.” The signs read, “Every Child Deserves a Chance at a Future and What if They Were Your Children?”

Neither of the girls were immigrants who migrated to North Carolina.

Angeline Echeverria, executive director of El Pueblo, a Latino advocacy organization asked McCrory and other North Carolinians to set a more welcoming tone.

“The message that he’s sending right now is one that implies that these children are to be feared,” said Echeverria. “We’re talking about children who are fleeing violence.”

Erik Valera of El Centro Hispano, a Latino community organization, said his and other groups are ready to help the children despite McCrory’s concerns.

“We have to do the work that others won’t,” Valera said. “We teach English, we teach citizenship and if McCroy wants to join us, he’s more than welcome.”


Bailey can be reached at: www.twitter.com/JeromeBaileyJr

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