James’ Controversial Comments Stir Up Latino Community

WBTV-TV (Charlotte), April 23, 2008

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James says he’s not backing down after what he said about immigrants last week.

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It all stems back to last week’s commissioner meeting.

“This isn’t anything remotely at issue,” James said, “unless the real issue is to coddle illegals, suck up to a certain segment of the community.”

Commissioner James asked the county to make local contractors use a tougher social security verification system.

He says it would crack down on illegal immigrants using fake social security numbers to get a job.

But commissioners disagreed, saying the system wasn’t reliable and would only create more stress on employers.

Then came these comments.

James said, “Illegal immigrants do pay taxes..so do prostitutes and drug dealers.”

Latino advocate Maudia Melendez thinks the comments were offensive.

“This needs to stop deragatory statements, directed at the community should not come from an official,” she said.

But Commissioner James says he doesn’t care if he offended anyone. “I don’t care what ethnic background you’re from, you follow the law.”

“Instead of building bridges we are breaking bridges,” Melendez said. She agrees illegal immigration needs to be dealt with, but in a different way, “by intelligent, compassionate people.”

James said, “if you want to drive home the fact of what’s really going on, you got to give it to them straight.

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