Siler City Delays Immigrant Advisory Board Appointments Again
SILER CITY – The Siler City Council of Commissioners postponed appointments to the city’s first Immigrant Advisory Committee to mid-November on Monday, opening a third nomination period to attract more applicants.
City manager Roy Lynch said city staff will then compile the requests and present them to council for discussion at its Nov. 15 meeting. As of Monday evening, the city had received eight letters of interest, including five from residents of Siler City.
âThere are people here who have very good qualifications,â Commissioner Chip Price told the board. âI was impressed, but at the same time there are several people there – I have no idea who they are, and personally I would like to have a little more time toâ¦ for lack of a better term, check out some of these people, maybe even talk to them personally. It has come to my attention that there are also a few people who would be interested, but just haven’t (applied).
In fact, two of those residents work at Commissioner Lewis Fadely’s law firm in Siler City.
âThey are residents of Siler City; they meet the qualifications, âFadely told his fellow Commissioners. âOne is a child of parents born in Guatemala; the other was born in El Salvador and is a recipient of the DACA.
On June 21, the commissioners unanimously approved the formation of the city’s first community immigrant advisory committee, as it was called. The idea originated several years ago as part of a two to three year community planning project called Building Integrated Communities (BIC).
Launched in 2017, this project brought together the city, the Hispanic liaison, and community members to identify the needs of immigrant residents and create a plan to meet them. Forming an immigrant advisory committee was one such step in the project’s finalized plan, but the COVID-19 pandemic and staff turnover delayed its implementation until June.
The initial application period closed on August 9. Per Lynch, the city had planned to compile and present all council nominations at a council meeting in August or September, but after receiving only five letters of interest for the proposed seven-member committee, the city decided early last month to reopen a second application period until October 8.
According to the city’s resolution, the committee will serve as a bridge between the council and immigrant residents, propose strategies to promote civic participation among immigrant residents, and serve as a forum to discuss and address concerns of the immigrant community.
Committee members will also be responsible for implementing all of the recommendations set out in BIC’s action plan to better serve immigrant residents of the city. Eligible committee members must come from âhistorically under-represented communitiesâ of recent immigrant ancestry, whether Latin America or other parts of the world. In this context, the members of the committee must be born abroad or be the children and / or grandchildren of immigrants.
But the commissioners could decide to change the resolution in response to the candidates they receive, Lynch told the board – whether it’s increasing the number of committee members or removing the committee’s qualification for recent immigrant ancestry, as noted by Mayor Pro-Tem Cindy Bray.
“(Something) that bothers me, I guess, because I was looking at some candidates, is that if we require them to be of a certain originâ¦ I think that is sort of discriminatory against of those who are not, “she said, adding:” To me, the Advisory Committee on Immigrants should be made up of people not only who may have origins, but who have knowledge of the people. , of its customs and understand and speak the language. “
For other Commissioners, including Bill Haiges and Price, however, this qualification makes a big difference.
âHaving the ancestors of recent immigrants or (being) born abroad, I think, is extremely important,â Haiges said, âbecause those further away from them don’t necessarily have the expertise or the experience of living in a foreign country, or of living in an immigrant community.
Meet the candidates of the committee (to date)
- Hannia BenÃtezHannia Benitez is the Deputy Director of Hispanic Liaison for the nonprofit’s new satellite office in Sanford, located at 215 Bracken Street. She lives in Siler City and has been on the liaison staff since January. / Staff photo by Peyton Sickles
Born in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Hannia Benitez moved to Siler City with her mother and sister in 1998 as a young child. She attended Siler City Elementary School, Chatham Middle School and Jordan-Matthews High School, from which she graduated in 2010.
After a brief stint at Sanford, she returned to Siler City with her husband and three children in 2016. Benitez served a three-year term as chair of the Hispanic Liaison board and now manages the office. Liaison satellites to Sanford as her Lee County Deputy Director, a role she has held since January.
âBorn in Guatemala and raised in Siler City, my goal within our immigrant community, which includes me, is to ensure that our voices are heard in a fair and just manner,â she wrote in his candidacy for the city. âI believe the best anchor for change is communication. When this is present, much can be accomplished.
Sara Correa, a Durham resident, is a research project leader at the Carolina Cancer Screening Initiative at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she works to conduct colon and lung cancer clinical trials for high-risk populations. in rural North Carolina. Born in Mexico, she immigrated to North Carolina with her parents when she was 5 years old.
A native Spanish speaker, she counseled and interpreted Spanish speaking patients at the Carrboro Community Health Center while studying her Masters of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has also developed bilingual and culturally appropriate health literacy programs for immigrants and refugees in Greensboro.
âI have experienced first-hand the challenges and obstacles that immigrants face in this country,â she wrote in her application. âAfter my parents were expelled at the age of 14, I lived on my own, supported myself and navigated the education system to make sure I stayed on track. These experiences have motivated me to serve my community in any way I can and to ensure that I use my education and skills to reduce barriers for current and future immigrants.
Norma Jisselle Perdomo, originally from Honduras and resident of Siler City, works as an immigration lawyer at the Vasquez law firm in Raleigh. Before becoming a lawyer, she taught English as a Second Language at Central Carolina Community College.
âAs an immigrant and immigrant advocate, I have a vested interest in working with under-represented communities,â she wrote in her letter of interest. âI was part of the initial Building Integrated Communities (BIC) project that started years ago in Siler City. “
Born in Mexico, Victoria Navarro immigrated to Siler City with her family in 1996 at the age of 4. She works with a higher education-focused marketing company in Raleigh to reach underrepresented communities. She has also served as the Family Engagement Coordinator with the non-profit organization LatinxEd to assist Latinx students and families throughout the college application process.
âWhile I feel fortunate to have found the connections and skills that made me feel heard in the community, I know that for many,â she wrote. “I wish to be that voice to represent the opinions and concerns of family and friends who do not have the same privilege as me.”
Originally from India, Joti Sekhon spent three decades as a professor of sociology and director of international programs first at Greensboro College and then at Winston-Salem State University, during which she carried out research on issues related to global migration patterns and volunteered with local community organizations that supported immigrants and refugees. Now retired, she lives in Governors Village in Chapel Hill.
Resident of Siler City and native of Costa Rica, Carlos Simpson runs a translation, interpretation and notarization company. He served on the Chatham County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee in the late 2000s and headed several local offices, including the Mayor of Siler City and the County School Board, in the early 2010s.
“I wish to serve on this committee to help advance the Hispanic immigrant community to achieve a healthier community!” he wrote.
- Danubio Vazquez Rodriguez
Born in Mexico, Danubio Vasquez Rodriguez moved to the United States when he was almost 10 years old and eventually graduated from Jordan-Matthews. He now works in the Pre-K department of Chatham County Schools, helping families apply for one of the district’s pre-K slots at seven schools.
âIt would be a pleasure to be part of this group, because I grew up in the communityâ¦ and because I feel I have all the skills to represent our people,â he wrote. âI would like to become the leader that I found in those who taught me to speak and not to be afraid. I want people to feel included, heard, and important! “
Silk Hope resident Cynthia Bredenberg teaches Spanish at Jordan-Matthews. According to her candidacy, she worked directly with immigrant students and their families throughout the 14 years she spent in Chatham County schools.
“I understand that a stipulation of the committee is that you must be born abroad or have recent immigrant ancestry,” she wrote. âI may not have been born in another country, but I have a vested interest in our Hispanic and immigrant community and our English speaking community. I’m often reminded that I’m a Yankee and wasn’t born here, and maybe it helps me understand the immigrant experience here in Chatham County.
To apply, interested candidates can submit letters of interest to City Clerk, Jenifer Johnson, at [email protected] by November 1. Letters should include applicants’ home addresses, contact details, education, and current jobs. Applicants should also indicate their level of civic engagement, why they want to serve on the committee, and anything they feel is necessary.
Not all positions are paid. Appointed members of the committee will serve for staggered terms of three years. Members may serve a second term if they are reappointed, but must leave the committee on a rotational basis for at least one year before serving a third term. Once formed, the committee should meet at least once a month, if not more.
Journalist Victoria Johnson can be reached at [email protected]