News

Committee on Confederate monuments begins work

The N.C. Historical Commission’s committee on confederate monuments held its first meeting Monday afternoon by teleconference, setting goals and discussing how to tackle the controversial issue.

Back in September, the full commission put off a decision on removing three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds. Instead, it formed a five-person committee to study the politically fraught issue, which the North Carolina General Assembly dropped into their laps with a 2015 law that makes it more difficult to remove such statues.

The committee consists of:

  • Chris Fonvielle, an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
  • Valerie Johnson, the Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and Director of Africana Women’s Studies at Greensboro’s Bennett College and chair of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission.
  • Noah Reynolds, a real estate investor and entrepreneur and trustee of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
  • Sam Dixon, an attorney and preservation advocate from Edenton.
  • David Ruffin, a banker and chairman of the commission.

During Monday’s initial meeting, the committee laid out its goals. Among them:

1) Seeking legal input from the law schools at Duke University, Elon University, N.C. Central, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University, Campbell University and from the UNC School of government.

2) Seeking outside input from historical experts, including David Cecelski, a North Carolina historian whose award-winning work on race in North Carolina has often touched on the Civil War and reconstruction era. The committee is also seeking input from historians at the state’s historically black colleges and universities and the Civil War and Reconstruction history museum now being planned in Fayetteville.

3) Creating a web portal for public comment, which they will also accept via traditional mail and holding at least one public forum before they present their work to the full commission.

“I think the state of NC deserves the rationale behind any decision and so it’s not just a public hearing but also explaining,” Ruffin said. “I absolutely feel a public hearing is quite critical to our mission.”

The committee has not yet set its next meeting date, but hopes to do so soon.

 

 

News

North Carolinians seeking sanctuary highlight need for congressional action on immigration reform

North Carolina is one of the the U.S. states with the most people seeking sanctuary from deportation.

The latest is Greenboro’s Oscar Canales,  who is taking sanctuary at Greensboro’s Congregational United Church of Christ.

His story has inspired a movement to keep this North Carolina business owner with his family.

From Triad City Beat’s coverage:

Canales was born in 1983 to parents who were subsistence farmers in the state of La Unión in El Salvador, and joined his aunt in the capital city of San Salvador at the age of 15 to work with livestock. Tired of constantly struggling to get by, Canales and a friend hired a coyote who told them he could get them work permits in the United States in 2005. Canales said he and his friend crossed the Rio Grande during daylight and walked into the Border Patrol under the mistaken belief that they would be given work permits. They didn’t realize the documents they received were not work permits but instead orders to appear in immigration court.

Canales said only after landing a job as a dishwasher at K&W Cafeteria in Greensboro did he have a lawyer look at his documents and learn that he had an immigration hearing. He was convicted in absentia.

Canales continued to work at K&W, where he met his wife. They have two children together, Karen and George, and co-parent his wife’s 17-year-old daughter, Shirley.

Canales started his own company, Canales Roofing, in 2012. He said he has employed about five people, including US citizens, since 2013. He said he’s put roofs on single-family homes, schools and businesses while paying taxes on his earnings.

One day in April 2013, while approaching an intersection on Merritt Drive, Canales said he accidentally let his foot off the brake and rear-ended another driver. Although there were no injuries or visible damage to either of the vehicles, Canales waited with the other driver for the police. Canales said after the Greensboro police officer looked at his Salvadoran ID, he arrested him based on his name matching another person with a criminal record who had the same name. After his booking in the Guilford County Jail, Canales was held in ICE custody in Winston-Salem, York, SC and the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Eventually, he obtained a stay of removal and was released.

At his annual check-in with ICE on Oct. 26, the authorities seized Canales’ passport and notified him that his deportation order was being reinstated. At a follow-up appointment on Dec. 19, Canales was ordered to leave by Jan. 18.

Canales, who went into sanctuary at Congregational United Church of Christ on Thursday, and his supporters contend that honoring his deportation order would tear apart his family and disrupt a business that provides employment to Guilford County residents.

“Following Jesus means welcoming all, especially those who are targeted and treated unjustly,” said the Rev. Julie Peeples, the senior pastor at Congregational United Church of Christ. “Keeping families together is our way of loving our neighbor and living our faith.”

The church previously provided sanctuary to Minerva Garcia. Another immigrant facing deportation, Juana Luz Tobar Ortega, is currently in sanctuary at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, also in Greensboro.

A press conference will be held at 5 p.m. today at the New Garden Friends Meeting at 801 New Garden Road in Greensboro where Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, immigrant families, community organizations and supporters will share their stories and call for action from Congress to protect the estimated 3.6 million DREAMers in the country.

 

 

 

News

Report: More than 140 organized racist acts on campuses last year

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were more than 140 reported incidents of organized racist acts on American campuses in 2017. It’s a problem problem outlined further in a recent piece from the Washington Post on hate groups making a recruitment push on campuses.

Those reports are not a surprise to those who have been paying attention to racist incidents in higher education over the last year.

They wouldn’t come as a surprise to many students in the UNC system either, who have dealt with everything from racist and anti-Islam graffiti  to harassment of those protesting the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus.

As the Post reports, organized racist groups are concentrating on campuses specifically.

From the Post’s piece:

The targeting of colleges and universities was not a haphazard choice by the white-power groups but rather a calculated strategy.

“It’s striking a blow directly at the heart of our foes,” said Matthew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a far-right organization that seeks a whites-only nation-state and has been labeled a hate group for its anti-Jewish and homophobic stances and its opposition to racial mixing. “It lets them know that there are people that are radically opposed to them, that aren’t afraid of them, that will challenge them. It shakes their thought that they’ve got the campus environment locked down and lets them know that people who oppose them go to their school or are a part of their local community.”

College campuses, Heimbach said, are ideal for recruiting members and gaining publicity because the presence of the hate groups inevitably creates an outcry on campus and in the community. He said the ranks of his organization have tripled over the past year from 500 to 1,500 members, although The Washington Post could not independently verify that assertion.

White Supremacist murders more than doubled over last year, according to the ADL.

News

Visitation and profit at the Mecklenburg County Jail

If you haven’t yet, you need to go read this column by Toussaint Romaine in the Charlotte Observer. The Mecklenburg assistant public defender takes on the big business of visitation at the county jail.

From the piece:

Global Tel Link (GTL), a billion-dollar company, is working with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office to exploit poor people for profit. Here’s how it works: GTL contracted its service with the Sheriff’s Office to provide online jail video visitation services. Once GTL installed the new equipment, the Sheriff’s Office terminated other forms of visitation. GTL was then left with a monopoly on how inmates communicate with loved ones.

To no one’s surprise, GTL also sets outrageous prices. After a free first “virtual visit,” one video visitation costs $12.50. That’s a lot of money. Especially when GTL uses platforms like Facetime and Skype, which are almost free. Consequently, those in jail (and their families) end up paying for services that they cannot afford.

But what’s the alternative? Not speaking to your loved ones in a moment of crisis?

Advocates for this technology say it increases jail efficiency, eliminates contraband and enhances visitor convenience. I don’t buy it. I have been visiting clients in the Mecklenburg County Jail for the past 10 years. What those advocates say and what I see are two different things.

I see the money. It’s only about the money. If it isn’t, then take away the profit incentive and see if those corporations stick around.

Still, I know who it hurts. During a jail tour last year, I learned that women are less likely to receive financial support from their family or friends. Sadly, the high price tag associated with this new video visitation exacerbates the anxiety felt in the jail as these women desperately try to call home so that they can hear their child’s voice. This happened a lot during the recent holiday season.

It is worth your time to read the whole thing.

News

New report: NC best in the country for campus free speech. Was UNC policy necessary?

Great story this week from Jane Stancill at the News & Observer about free speech, the UNC system and whether a new campus speech policy passed late last year was necessary.

If you followed Policy Watch’s coverage of the speech policy debate, you’ll want to read this piece, which starts with a new study finding North Carolina the best state in the country for campus free speech.

From the piece:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that advocates for civil liberties in academia, released a report in December on how 461 U.S. universities stack up on free speech. The organization judges campuses with its own rating system, with designations of green lights, yellow lights or red lights.

Its study, “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2018: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses,” gave mediocre or poor marks to most universities, but said free speech policies have significantly improved over time.

Fifty-nine percent of the colleges were given yellow lights, denoting policies that are either too vague or restrict speech in narrow ways. Nearly one-third of campuses were given red lights for policies that substantially restrict free speech. Only 35 colleges managed to earn a green light, the group’s highest rating, for policies that protect free speech on campus.

North Carolina had eight green light campuses in the 2018 study – more than any other state. The campuses earning that designation were: Appalachian State University, Duke University, East Carolina University, N.C. Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro and UNC-Wilmington.

“North Carolina, as far as having policies that respect students’ free speech go, is a national leader,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research.

 

That begs the question then…why did N.C. lawmakers, using FIRE’s reports, come to the conclusion that the state of campus speech was so in peril that the UNC system had to create a policy that students, faculty, staff and civil liberties advocates worry can be used to crack down on free speech?

Michael Behrent, vice president of the North Carolina chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the answer is simple.

“FIRE’s efforts to construe the issue of campus free speech very narrowly, reducing it to the fight against so-called political correctness, actually contributes to efforts to limit free speech on campuses, which, for the most part, is alive and well,” Behrent, an Appalachian State University history professor, said in an emailed statement. “FIRE’s reporting fuels the attitudes that resulted in the passage of the ‘Restoring Free Speech’ law last summer and the recent Board of Governors’ policy.”

 

Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research, disputes that characterization. She says the new policy will have to be used properly and FIRE will be watching to see that it is.

“It’ll just remain to be seen how the university enforces it,” Harris said. “If it is enforcing it on people for engaging in peaceful protest, who are exercising their right to free speech in a legitimate way, then that would obviously be very problematic. But when protest crosses the line into what we call ‘a heckler’s veto,’ when you are actually preventing someone else from being heard, then that is not a valid exercise of the right to free speech. Of course, the question is how it will be handled in those sort of gray areas.”

She added, “It will be very important that they err on the side of protecting free speech.”

Read the whole story here.