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Cooper and Ross in attendance, but where were McCrory and Burr?
On Sunday afternoon, the North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations (NCCLO) hosted its candidate forum with over 1,000 representatives from statewide Latino organizations. Seemingly, the only people missing were Governor McCrory and Senator Burr who, despite repeated invitations, declined to even send a representative.
The major event at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Durham was billed as the biggest opportunity of the election cycle for the Latino community to learn about the candidates’ positions and for the candidates to hear the challenges and hopes of Latino residents from the mountains to the coast.
Senatorial candidate Deborah Ross received a standing ovation for her strong support for comprehensive immigration reform and her commitment to upholding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the use of federal funds.
While Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper received a warm welcome and applause for his commitment to a much better relationship with the Latino community than Governor McCrory, there was noticeable concern surrounding his unwillingness to clearly support driving permits for the undocumented community.
Cooper also faced criticism for his failure to embrace in-state tuition for undocumented students – another core issue for the North Carolina immigrant rights movement given the barriers to higher education faced by undocumented students who often defer their dreams of going to college, because they can’t afford to pay out-of-state tuition rates.
On the whole though, the major story of the day was the complete rejection of this event by the Trump supporting Republican candidates Pat McCrory and Senator Burr.
Given that Richard Burr defended Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant agenda during the senatorial debate, it is clear that he has no intention of reaching out to one of the fastest growing demographics in the state.
Sunday also marked the one-year anniversary of the massive protest outside the Governor’s mansion when immigrant leaders rallied in condemnation of McCrory’s signing of anti-immigrant bill HB 318. The bill outlawed sanctuary cities, expanded the use of E-verify for certain government contractors, and barred the most common forms of identification used by undocumented immigrants. Statewide and nationally, HB 318 is widely condemned as an attack on Latino and immigrant families.
Perhaps McCrory’s absence is an acknowledgement that his immigration record and blind support for Trump make him a persona non grata in the immigrant community.
According to Tim Eakins, Director of North Carolina’s Voice, “The takeaways from Sunday’scandidate forum in many ways parallel national trends: Republicans have become the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino party, while Democrats are beginning to lean into the issues most important to the Latino community. Given the demographic shifts in North Carolina and across the country, Republicans are committing political suicide by embracing white nationalism, but Democrats will never feel the true weight of the Latino vote until they properly invest in this core constituency.”