Candidates for Durham County Sheriff & School Board of Education met with hundreds of leaders from the Latino community and their allies on May 6th at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church. Candidates reacted to a series of community driven proposals, included the future sheriff’s relationship with ICE, school safety and the much needed hiring of bilingual personnel.
Hundreds of immigrant leaders representing diverse organizations from Durham will meet with all candidates for Sheriff and the Board of Education. The Assembly of Delegates of the NC Congress of Latino Organizations (NCCLO) and Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods) will take place on Sunday May 6, at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church from 3:30-5 PM. The Assembly is organized by leaders of over 30 diverse Durham institutions. Leaders seek to gather specific reactions and commitments to their priorities from the candidates. The public meeting will be a call to community members to vote in the upcoming primary elections.
On May 8, Durham residents elected a Sheriff, and four School Board members. “We want to ensure that whoever leads our schools and the Office of the Sheriff is responsive to the wellbeing and needs of our community,” said Cecilia Barja an organizer with the NCCLO.
Recently, Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews explained how his office works with federal immigration enforcement officials. The Sheriff's Office honors 48-hour detainers issued by the federal government for people in jail who are in the country illegally. However, on March 5, 2017, representatives of the Sheriff’s Office appeared before 1,200 delegates of the NCCLO and Durham CAN and stated that they do not collaborate with ICE. “Those two different positions have generated a great deal of fear and distrust in the immigrant community. We expect Sheriff Andrews will clarify for our delegates what his position really is,” said Jonatan Campa Rendon a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Latino leaders have been preparing for this meeting for the last six months. To better understand the issue, they analyzed data from Durham Public Schools (DPS) and met with almost every member of the Board of Education. According to DPS’ demographic data, at least 30% of the student population identifies as Hispanic/Latino, yet very few bilingual staff are employed at DPS. “We were surprised to verify that there are no bilingual counselors in the entire system, that fewer than half of the schools (24 out of 53 schools) have bilingual front desk staff, and that there are only nine interpreters to serve over 10,000 Latino students and their families. That is one interpreter per 1,118 students,” said Marian Abernathy, Chair of the Judea Reform Refugee Resettlement and Immigrant Justice initiative.
“School counselors play an important role in addressing the emotional needs of students, while helping them determine the path into post secondary education and ultimately jobs. Without bilingual counselors, we are effectively denying Latino students of the American dream. We understand that the lack of counselors often predict an easy track into low paying jobs for our people,” said Juana Rosales a parent of four children at DPS. Organizers will report back on a series of negotiations with the new School Superintendent on the hiring of bilingual personnel. Leaders will ask the candidates for School Board for their reaction and support for those proposals.
The meeting is a nonpartisan call to community members to participate in the upcoming primary. We never endorse candidates, but we can mobilize our community to turnout and vote according to their own priorities,” said Katushka Olave, Spanish Pastoral Care Associate at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Durham Congregations Associations and Neighborhoods (CAN) is a non- partisan network of local institutions working together to make Durham a better place. The NC Congress of Latino Organizations is a statewide network of Latino institutions and their members working to advance the well being of Latinos in North Carolina. Both networks are affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the largest and oldest community organizing network with chapters in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, and Australia.