North Carolina Latino community advocates are crying foul in response to Republican Governor Pat McCrory’s decision to close the Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs, saying it sends the message that Republicans don’t care about immigrants.
A spokesperson for the governor says they closed the office for budgetary reasons and that the duties of the office will be shifted to the office of community and constituent affairs and that the needs of the Latino community will still be met.
“We are committed to serving the needs of all of North Carolina’s citizens,” Thomas Stith, the governor’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “We don’t segment our constituents by race or cultural background any more than we separate them by age or gender. In addition, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs is a valuable resource to help us address culturally sensitive issues.”
Advocates of the Latino community see the move as evidence that the Republican Party is unwelcoming to Latinos despite its recent national efforts to address immigration concerns.
“The message from Raleigh is that Latinos in North Carolina don’t matter,” said Jess George, executive director of Latin American Coalition in Charlotte. “To close the office of Hispanic affairs only goes to confirm what many people suspect in our state, which is that, despite movement with the Republican Party at the national level towards more bipartisan solutions around comprehensive immigration reform, North Carolina conservatives don’t seem to have gotten the same memo.”
The governor’s Director of Community Affairs, who will be assuming duties once handled by the Latino outreach office, says she will have well-trained bilingual staff on hand to handle any needs Latinos might have. This has not appeased many in the Latino community as they see the closing of the office as symbolic of the governor’s lack of commitment to Latino concerns.
Will Governor McCrory’s decision to close the Latino outreach office perpetuate the perception that Republicans don’t care about immigrants and negatively affect the Republican Party nationally? Should he have made budget cuts elsewhere instead of adding fuel to the fire? Or should more Republican leaders make stands like this one, refusing to separate citizens into factions and instead treating them all, first and foremost, as Americans?