01/18/18 — Digging into immigration

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Digging into immigration

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 18, 2018 5:50 AM

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Wayne County Commissioners Ed Cromartie, left, and Ray Mayo confer shortly after Mayo chided Commissioner Joe Daughtery's "grinch" comments last month about Health Department bad debt write-offs for providing services for illegal immigrants.

Grandstanding and demeaning.

That is how Wayne County Commissioner Ray Mayo labeled comments made last month by a fellow commissioner concerning the Health Department's bad debt write-offs for services rendered to people who are in the country illegally.

Mayo did not call any commissioner by name during the board's Tuesday morning session.

However, during the board's Dec. 19 session, Commissioner Joe Daughtery said the Grinch came out of him after he questioned the write-offs.

The bad debt write-off totaled $31,122.23, of which $30,578.17 was for services rendered to clients who did not have a Social Security number, meaning they were in the country illegally.

The write-offs were unanimously approved along with the rest of the items in the board's consent agenda that day.

The dictionary defines Grinch as a person who does not like other people celebrating or enjoying themselves, especially a person who does not like Christmas, Mayo said during the commissioners' comments portion of the meeting.

"To me, the use of the word Grinch and its implications by a commissioner and the News-Argus (article and editorial about the meeting), in jest or not, was inappropriate," Mayo said. "To grandstand this sensitive issue and also at the same time demean this sensitive issue down to a monetary value of $31,122 -- this cuts to the very fabric of our society and what America is all about.

"Seems like we have crossed this path on this commission board in the past few years on some other funding issues."

"Sometimes silence is golden," Daughtery said when it came his time to make comments.

Mayo said he attended this past Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon, where keynote speaker Addie Wright Thomason described the qualities of a leader.

Mayo said one that stood out to him was that a person who cares about "the least, the last and the lost" is a true leader.

"This is not going to make the newspaper. That's OK. It is a controversial issue, always has been," Mayo said. "I am in agreement 100 percent that it doesn't seem fair to pay for services for people here illegally, especially seemingly when fraud and abuse may be present.

"It also seems that illegal immigrants can, in some cases, and I know of some personally, that can receive services more readily than legal citizens can."

For the past 20 years or more, U.S. presidents, Congress, state legislatures and even local elected officials have not been willing to address border security and/or even implement immigration laws that are already on the books, Mayo said.

Illegal immigrants are here due to open borders and failed policies that allow people to enter our country at free will, unopposed, he said.

"No. 2,  my understanding from President Trump and others is that illegal immigrants that are already in our country will not be deported unless they have a criminal record," he said. "I think that is probably what will happen."

A News-Argus editorial published following the Dec. 19 meeting is correct, deportation is not a good option, Mayo said.

What options does that leave, he said.

Mayo said he had to give Trump credit for addressing border security.

However, until immigration reform is complete what is to be done with illegal immigrants already in the country, Mayo said.

"Are we willing to deny health and human services to these people including women and children?" he said. "There is very little said in the article in the Goldsboro News-Argus, in the editorial or front-page article, about the fact that we are dealing with living, breathing human beings created by God.

"Who knows? Some of us as elected officials may be sitting in this seat today because maybe someone in our ancestry came to the country illegally."

Mayo said his point is that the country needs to secure the borders.

"We need to implement immigrant laws fairly and equally to all, and this issue of what we were facing from (Health Department Director) Davin Madden of $31,122, will this issue not go away?" Mayo said. "We need to remember that we all are equal in God's sight, including illegal immigrants."

Commissioner Ed Cromartie followed up on Mayo's comments by saying that his remarks at the King luncheon included a quote by King that "the time is always right to do what is right."

Cromartie said he recalled when the department that deals with illegal immigrants made a sweep through the county and some surrounding counties around 2010.

A lot of Hispanic people who were not here legally left, and paperwork was put in place to bring a lot of the Haitian population in to work at places that process food, he said.

Cromartie said he sometimes hears people complain about how much work is being taken away from them by illegal immigrants.

"I don't think that is too much the case," he said. "I have had people come to me, when I was working in the school system, looking for a job with the school system who had worked at Butterball and places and working conditions were a little strenuous. So they looked for a different environment."

Cromartie said he comes in contact with a large number of Haitians on a regular basis.

"They have come to this country, and they are working real hard," he said. "It distresses me whenever the leadership of our nation can say harmful and hurtful things about folk who are here working hard.

"They are buying food from Piggly Wiggly, Food Lion, buying some clothes at Belk's and hopefully reading newspapers. So they are integrating themselves into the community as best they can and where appropriate. So we just need to be mindful of the things that we celebrate every year that Dr. King stood for and let's be as kind to our fellow man as possible."