A blow against exclusion

From Cities can face large fines for disparate treatment of minority communities in access to public services.

Cities can face large fines for disparate treatment of minority communities in access to public services.

CHAPEL HILL — This month a jury in Zanesville, Ohio, awarded $10.9 million to residents of a mostly black neighborhood after finding that the local government discriminated against the community by denying access to public water service, even though it provided water to nearby predominantly white neighborhoods. Low-income and minority neighborhoods across the country face similar discriminatory patterns of municipal exclusion.

The verdict in Ohio recognized the disparate treatment that the Cole Run community suffered, and it provided communities nationwide with a potent tool in their struggle against racially discriminatory land-use policies and practices. The case has also highlighted an issue that results not only in inadequate public services, but also in the social and political exclusion of these communities.

The Zanesville verdict has a larger potential as well: It presents a unique opportunity for state and local governments to review and revise laws and policies that have created and entrenched similar patterns of discrimination and exclusion, and to aggressively move to remedy the ongoing impacts of such patterns.

The verdict also encourages the ongoing efforts of community-based groups to continue to push for inclusion, equal treatment and full participation in their communities. The jury’s action should remind those who don’t live in excluded neighborhoods that such practices diminish the well-being and quality of their lives and prevent the community from achieving the full realization of its collective potential.

Significant work on this issue is being done in North Carolina, where it is believed that more than 31 minority communities are facing some form of municipal exclusion. To document and identify these communities, the UNC Center for Civil Rights has worked with the Mebane-based Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities, which provided maps and expert testimony in the Zanesville case, and the Legal Aid Clients Council of N.C.

In Moore County, the center works with communities that have achieved success through grass-roots organizing to obtain municipal services and increase awareness of their plight. The Jackson Hamlet neighborhood’s advocacy led Pinehurst to provide street lights and water and sewer services, and to pursue annexation of the community, which would allow residents to receive additional municipal services and vote in local elections.

Through organized community action, both the Midway community, working with the town of Aberdeen, and the Waynor Road community, working with Southern Pines, secured water and sewer services, an annexation commitment and increased political participation in local government. In addition, the center helped each of these organizations conduct community assessments, research funding sources for municipal services, counsel residents on their legal and political rights and become tax-exempt entities, thereby enabling them to qualify for grants to continue their advocacy efforts.

Several other organizations in North Carolina, including the Southern Moore Alliance for Excluded Communities, N.C. Rural Communities Assistance Project and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are already assisting excluded communities to meet the challenges those communities face. These organizations and communities are bringing tangible improvements, sustainability and inclusion through a range of strategies to help remedy the discriminatory effects of current land use practices.

There remains much work to be done; many other communities still face the effects of exclusion, which are broad and deeply ingrained. A comprehensive, coordinated effort is necessary to combat the issue. Forward-thinking local and state governments, progressive community groups, lawyers and other nonprofit organizations should seize the awareness and attention raised by the Zanesville verdict to vigorously press the issue in their own communities.

(Julius L. Chambers, former chancellor of N.C. Central University, is the director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights. Mark Dorosin is a senior attorney at the center.)

Source: News and Observer

From http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/columns/story/1150699.html

Southern Human Rights Organizers Protest “287g” program

From Protest of 287g program as part of the SHROC Conference

Protest of 287g program as part of the SHROC Conference

Participants in the Southern Human Rights Organizers Conference will hold a vigil and demonstration in front of the Wake County Jail on Saturday, December 13, from 5pm-7pm to protest the county’s 287(g) program.

SHROC is a biannual conference of human rights organizers from across the Southeast. SHROC leaders are particularly concerned about the targeting of immigrant communities throughout the South through the 287(g) program.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Department is one of eight law enforcement agencies in North Carolina to enter into a 287(g) agreement with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Proponents claim that these programs make our communities safer by facilitating the deportation of “dangerous convicted criminals.” In reality, this program has been mostly used to target people accused of minor offenses.

In Wake County, even victims of crime have been arrested under 287(g) and deported. Jose Sergio Ruis was deported after he reported a break-in at his home. He was told by police that his fingerprints were needed to distinguish them from those of potential suspects. Police ran his fingerprints through the ICE database and found that his immigration paperwork was not compliant. He was deported. Incidents like this have led many in immigrant communities to be fearful of cooperating with police.

The NC Sherriff’s Association reported that 33% of the over 3,000 people deported under the 287(g) program were detained for driving related offenses, other than DWI.

This has led to widespread suspicion that police are using racial profiling and that people are being arrested solely to give law enforcement the ability to check their immigration status. For example, community members report a marked increase in police checkpoints in areas with a high Latino populations, including in front of Spanish-language churches on Sunday mornings.

“Every member of our community has the right to live without fear. The 287(g) program is being abused and making our community members and immigrant families feel less safe,” said Marty Rosenbluth, staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Source: MyNC

From http://raleigh.mync.com/site/raleigh/news/story/21712/southern-human-rights-organizers-protes

Human Rights Members Protest Immigration Measure

From SHROC Conference attendees protest the 287g program at the Wake County Jail.

SHROC Conference attendees protest the 287g program at the Wake County Jail.

By Amanda Fitzpatrick

RALEIGH (WTVD) — More than 100 members of the Southern Human Rights Organizer conference, organized in front of the Wake County Jail Saturday to protest against Wake County’s 287-G program.

Jaribu Hill came from Mississippi and says the program is unfair. “287-G is a measure put in place by law enforcement to chill and the measure to chill and curtail the movement of immigrant people,” Hill said.

The measure gives local authorities some ability to enforce federal immigration laws. Inside the Wake County jail, they are allowed to check the legal status of every inmate that comes through the doors, using the inmates’ fingerprints.

Rosa Saavedra, a Wake County activist says she met a pregnant woman whose family was destroyed because of the new bill.

“I met a lady whose husband was taken away due to this 287-G,” she said. “The police took him here, haul him away for a minor traffic violation.”

Some argue the program encourages racial profiling. They believe the police target Hispanics and take them to jail for minor traffic violations so they can fingerprint them to find their legal status –later deporting them out of the country.

But Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison disagrees, in an earlier interview he says the 287-G program has kept criminals off the streets.

“We’ve already caught people that were wanted in other states and other counties,” he said. “So to me, when we get a criminal off the street, regardless of how we do it, if we’re doing it legally, then it’s a plus for us.”

Harrison says they’ve found more than 550 illegal immigrants at the jail since 287-G started in Wake County and with the new technology, that number could increase.

Source: ABC 11 News

From http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&id=6555128

NC Legislature must make boundary changes again

From Supreme Court ruling a setback for minority voting rights in the South.

Supreme Court ruling a setback for minority voting rights in the South.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Legislature will have to change its district boundaries a fourth time this decade based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday involving racial gerrymandering and a state requirement barring districts from crossing over county boundaries.

The nation’s highest court upheld a 2007 state Supreme Court decision that found boundaries for a House district in Pender and New Hanover counties were illegal.
The decision means the General Assembly must change the House boundary map before the 2010 election cycle, handing another task to lawmakers already busy trying to narrow a projected budget gap of more than $3 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1.
House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said he expects only significant changes will have to be made to three districts in the House to comply with Monday’s 5-4 ruling.
“I don’t think there’s any spillover effects,” Hackney said. “I think the impact of it is very limited.”

Rep. Paul Stam, the House minority leader, said there were other districts that Democrats should change before next year to comply with the ruling, although he couldn’t immediately identify them. But “the people who drew the districts want to change them as little as possible,” said Stam, R-Wake.

Redistricting experts say they expect the ruling likely will have a greater impact when the once-a-decade redrawing of boundaries for the House and Senate seats occurs in 2011, once data from the 2010 census is in.

The Legislature had to redraw district boundaries in 2001 and 2002, but a judge threw out the maps and ultimately create temporary boundaries for the 2002 elections. Another set of maps was approved by lawmakers in 2003 and has been used since the 2004 elections.

The justices’ split decision favored Pender County elected officials who originally sued in 2004 and determined a state isn’t required by the federal Voting Rights Act to draw electoral districts where black residents comprise less than half the voting-age population.

The court said such racial gerrymandering is required only if a district has a numerical majority of minority voters.

In the 18th House District, currently represented by Rep. Sandra Spaulding Hughes, D-New Hanover, the black voting-age population is 39 percent. The Legislature decided to split the district between Pender and New Hanover counties in 2003.

Lawyers for the current and former Pender County commissioners argued the split violated a provision of the North Carolina constitution discouraging district boundaries from crossing county lines and that all county residents should be placed in a single district.

“It’s taken awhile but we’ve got to where we wanted to be,” Trey Thurman, the attorney for the Pender officials, said after Monday’s decision.

The state Supreme Court agreed with county leaders in August 2007, saying the district was illegal because the constitution’s “whole county provision” could only be superseded if the district be comprised of a majority-black population. It ordered the Legislature to make changes before the 2010 election cycle.

State officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, and the justices heard arguments last fall. State Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office declined comment on the ruling.

Anita Earls, who filed a friend-of-the-court on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, three Pender County residents and the American Civil Liberties Union, was disappointed with the ruling.

“It’s definitely a setback for the Voting Rights Act,” Earls said.

She agreed with Justice David Souter, who wrote in the dissenting opinion that the decision will require elected officials to shift black voters to majority-black districts, reducing the number of districts where they have a chance to influence the outcome of elections.

About 25 states have some restrictions or guidelines in their laws relatively similar to North Carolina involving how districts can be drawn. The decision could affect how districts with sizable minority groups are fashioned, said Tim Storey, a redistricting expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Meanwhile, another pending federal lawsuit could force boundaries to be changed further. It’s been filed by GOP voters alleging current North Carolina maps are unlawful because legislative leaders should have used updated census data.

“They’re going to have to use the best available census data, and that will require redistricting around the entire state,” said Kieran Shanahan, a lawyer for the voters.

Source: WRAL

From http://www.wral.com/news/state/story/4700609/

Secure Communities: 287(g) with lipstick?

From Community activists worry that “Secure Communities” program in Orange County, NC will lead to racial profiling.

Community activists worry that “Secure Communities” program in Orange County, NC will lead to racial profiling.

Orange County’s reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants, documented or undocumented, may be dented by the sheriff department’s participation in the federal “Secure Communities” program.

At issue is whether Secure Communities significantly differs from the controversial federal 287(g) program.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners last night asked Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass to explain the county’s participation, beginning this month, in Secure Communities. The pilot federal project grants the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation automatic access to the personal information of people arrested in Orange County.

The Commission heard Pendergrass’ report, but took no action.

The program is intended to help federal authorities locate illegal immigrants who have also been charged with crimes unrelated to immigration, including traffic violations, Pendergrass said.

“The system is simply that, when you fingerprint someone, it goes through the system, and we get a correct identification of the individual,” Pendergrass said, referring to the DHS and FBI databases. “The system does go through the right side of Homeland Security, but we do not—and they do not tell us—if someone we have fingerprinted is someone who is an alien.”

Pendergrass insisted the program did not violate Orange County’s 2007 resolution opposing participation in the federal 287(g) program, which marshals local law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants.

“I never know if somebody is wanted by immigration, because they don’t tell me, and we have no way of knowing,” he said. “We’re not like Alamance County, and other counties, where they enter into an agreement—and they hold in the jail illegal aliens.”

Instead, Pendergrass said, “If they call us and tell us, ‘You have Joe Blow, and he’s an alien,’ that’s their business, and we don’t get involved. If he’s there on charges, he has to have all his charges resolved in Orange before immigration can touch him. It’s just a simple thing people have misunderstood.”

Orange County Attorney Geoff Gledhill said at the meeting that he did not think Pendergrass’ participation in the program violates the county resolution, but noted that Secure Communities relates to “certain provisions of section 287(g).”

However, the difference between the two programs is slim, said Marty Rosenbluth, staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Justice. He told the Commissioners that Secure Communities “doesn’t just violate the spirit and intent of this resolution, but it also violates the color of the law.”

“The effect of joining Secure Communities is to give ICE unfettered access to immigration information about members of the Orange County community,” he wrote in a letter to the board. “Once ICE has matched the fingerprints of a detainee in Orange County jail, it is up to ICE, not the sheriff, to decide whether or not ICE will take action against the person,” the letter went on. According to ICE, once a person is identified through the Secure Communities program, “[r]esponses may include such actions as: placing the alien immediately in ICE custody to avoid release; conducting personal interviews to gather additional information from the alien; placing detainers; and issuing charging documents.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

While Pendergrass distinguished Orange County’s immigration program from 287(g) participating counties such as Alamance, Wake and Mecklenburg, he said that soon, all of North Carolina would be reporting fingerprinting data to federal immigration authorities.

“By the end of the year, and maybe the first few months of 2010, the whole system in the state of North Carolina will be just like ours,” he said.

Matt Saldaña, msaldana (at) indyweek (dot) com

Source: Independent Weekly

From http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A273892

Residents set to fight Navy’s OLF with all they’ve got

From Rural communities in North Carolina oppose the Navy’s OLF.

Rural communities in North Carolina oppose the Navy’s OLF.

Quietly but surely, rural communities on the edges of Hampton Roads are gearing up for what could be a fateful fight.

In Surry County, one woman is compiling lists of historic and prehistoric sites; another is analyzing demographic data.

Residents of Gates County, N.C., are sketching their family trees, gathering old photographs and accumulating property deeds and land records.

And Tony Clark and Roland Evans are putting the finishing touches on an 18-minute documentary about life in Virginia’s Southampton, Sussex and Surry counties.

The efforts have a common goal: build a case against the Navy’s plan to construct a jet landing strip in the midst of a rural community.

The outlying landing field, or OLF, primarily would serve fighter pilots based at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.

A year ago, after abandoning plans to build a practice landing strip in Washington County, N.C., the Navy announced it would study five new potential sites for the controversial $200 million project.

This summer, the Navy will release its preliminary environmental analysis of the sites – three in Virginia; two in northeastern North Carolina – and might designate one or more of the locations as front-runners.

But opponents aren’t waiting until then. Emboldened by Washington County’s success in heading off the Navy, they are embarking on public relations campaigns, undertaking their own studies of possible impacts and putting politicians on notice about their opposition of the landing strip.

Navy brass and Virginia officials who want to protect Oceana’s status as the East Coast’s master jet base are frustrated by the early and intense opposition.

Dialogue has ground to a halt. Distrust abounds. Both sides say they’re open to real conversation but accuse the other of being evasive or sticking to a familiar script.

Rear Adm. David Anderson, vice commander of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, heads the Navy’s effort to have a landing field operational by 2013.

Not wanting to repeat the service’s mistakes last time, Anderson pledged last year that the Navy would be more flexible about acquiring the 3,000-acre “core” of the field. He announced that residents living in the highest noise zones could stay in their homes if they desired. He said the Navy would work with local governments to spur economic development compatible with the field.

None of that has seemed to sway the landowners and residents of the affected communities.

Opponents not only question the Navy’s need for the landing field, but some doubt the future of Oceana itself and assert that its days are numbered.

That galls Anderson, a fighter pilot by training.

“It’s a credibility issue,” he said. “And I hate to say it, but there are certain areas right now where, because I’m wearing a uniform, people do not believe me. In 31 years of being in the Navy, I never thought I would see that.”

Pilots of F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornet s now prepare for nighttime carrier landings at Oceana and Fentress Auxiliary Landing Field in Chesapeake, both of which have been encircled by suburban development. The Navy contends that it needs an additional landing strip, in a more rural setting, to relieve the pressure on Oceana and Fentress, especially during summer and when multiple aircraft carriers are preparing to deploy.

Anderson cites as an example the Norfolk-based squadron that trains E2C Hawkeye pilots. Five times a year, the squadron heads to Jacksonville, Fla., for its field carrier landing practice because Fentress is too busy. The cost to the Navy: $1.8 million.

Opponents claim that unchecked development around Oceana and Fentress created the problem and accuse the Navy of trying to export jet noise to the countryside in order to spare the ears of city residents. They cite the 2005 findings of a federally appointed base closing commission that criticized “encroachment” around Oceana.

If Oceana is in jeopardy, or if its limitations mean it won’t be able to host the next-generation fighter jet, they argue, the Navy shouldn’t spend up to $200 million on a landing field that could soon become obsolete.

The debate isn’t about encroachment, Anderson says, and even if Oceana and Fentress were surrounded by desert, the service would need an outlying landing field. The Navy “is out of capacity to train pilots” on the East Coast, he said.

“That’s the urgency that we’re dealing with right now,” Anderson said. For the future, we don’t see that going away, but if it does, if it changes, we’re willing to try to structure this now so that it’s advantageous for the county and the military down the road.”

One possibility he mentioned: build a facility that in 50 or 60 years could become a county airport.

Some of those Anderson is trying to persuade already are familiar with the sound of Navy jets in training.

Cyndi Raiford, a certified therapeutic riding instructor, used to work at Equi-kids, a program that teaches physically and mentally disabled clients to ride horses at a facility that is a few hundred yards from Oceana.

Ten years ago, Raiford and her husband bought 65 acres in Southampton County. They lease some of the land to Graz’n Acres, a therapeutic riding program that serves 75 children with autism or other disabilities. Raiford serves as its executive director.

The property is within a few miles of the Navy’s Dory site.

Raiford doesn’t think supersonic jets, horses and autistic children are a good mix. Many autistic youths suffer from auditory defensiveness, Raiford said. Even the hum of fluorescent lights in the barn can bother them.

“All of our students have difficulty concentrating and staying on task. You add noise to the mix, and it makes it that much harder,” Raiford said.

At Equi-kids, her lessons would come to a halt when Navy jets passed overhead.

“It’s really going to compromise our ability out here to the point where the center would probably have to consider relocating, if that site goes through,” Raiford said. “I guess what people really need to understand is there are such limited services for people with disabilities, especially locally. There aren’t that many opportunities for most of these students.”

Raiford’s story is one of several highlighted in a new video produced by Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field. Another excerpt features a Surry County family that farms land passed down for more than 100 years.

A rough cut of the film was shown in early February at a series of community meetings in Surry, Sussex and Southampton counties.

Tony Clark, chairman of the group, has bigger aspirations for the film.

“From ‘Oprah’ to ’60 Minutes,’ they’re all going to get a copy,” Clark told about 150 people at Surry High School for an opposition meeting.

Anita Earls represents Citizens Against OLF, a group fighting to keep the landing field out of Gates County. She’s also executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Under her direction, residents are compiling information about their long-standing connection to the land, whether through farming or fishing or hunting, as well as the ties that bind them together.

The effort involves everything from gathering census data to analyzing the community’s social networks, which could be disrupted if families move away from the field.

“To what extent are people reliant on next-door neighbors to take them to the doctor?” Earls asked. “It’s not a given. It’s not something that exists everywhere, or to the same degree in all places.”

A group of 10 students from the environmental law and policy clinic at Duke University’s law school is assessing potential environmental impacts of a landing field in Gates County. The students are compiling a “shadow environmental impact statement” to compare with the document the Navy plans to publish this summer.

Environmental issues – specifically, the impact jet maneuvers would have on waterfowl at a nearby national wildlife refuge – helped doom the Washington County site. Opponents successfully sued the Navy for breaching the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

Earls thinks another bit of federal law could prove more important this round: Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says federal money can’t be used to disproportionately impact a minority community in a negative way.

“Particularly in Gates County, that may be a real issue,” Earls said. “In some ways, that has more teeth than NEPA.”

Anderson knows he can’t personally answer every criticism from community members. But he insists he’s committed to dialogue with residents who might be directly affected by a landing field.

The admiral said one woman whose home is within the high-noise contours of a Virginia site contacted the Navy last summer to learn more about the possible impact.

He arranged for a group of eight of her neighbors and family members to spend the day at Oceana. She talked to pilots, watched them practice in a simulator and saw jet-landing practice up close at Fentress.

The Navy then drove her about two miles away for an idea of what the noise level would be at her home.

She later sent a note, he said, thanking him for his hospitality. She said she understood that the Navy does need a landing field – but she still didn’t want it in her community.

To Anderson, that was progress. She wasn’t saying that the Navy didn’t need the field, or was wasting money, or had ulterior motives.

“It was ‘No, I understand now, and I do believe you, but still, everything said and done, I’d prefer not to have it in my backyard,’ ” Anderson said. “And that’s about the best I think we can hope for.”

Kate Wiltrout, (757) 446-2629, kate.wiltrout@pilotonline.com

Date: 2009-03-17

Source: Virginia Pilot

From http://hamptonroads.com/2009/02/residents-set-fight-navys-olf-all-theyve-got