After more than a decade in operation, the state’s office for Latino Affairs has been closed by Governor Pat McCrory, upsetting advocates in the community.
The Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs was a communication tool for the Latino community. It directed those needing assistance to the appropriate state agencies, provided bilingual services, and collected demographic information. Judykay Jefferson, the North Carolina Community and Constituent Affairs director, says the administration objected philosophically to an office focused on only one demographic. Her office will take over those responsibilities.
“The function and commitment to serving the Latino and Hispanic population has not changed,” Jefferson says. “That was the previous administration’s approach to servicing their constituents. Our approach is far more comprehensive, so while we certainly understand and appreciate cultural differences, our approach doesn’t change based on any one particular group.”
The former Latino affairs office only had one staff member, so even those opposed to the closure do not expect it to have much direct impact.
It’s less about tangibly what that department should or shouldn’t be doing and more about a trend at the state level that continues to disenfranchise and, frankly, reject Latinos and immigrants in our state,” says Jess George, executive director of the Latin American Coalition.
That trend includes a plan, which the state has now abandoned, to issue pink-striped driver’s licenses to young immigrants whose deportation has been deferred by the Obama administration. And, George points to a bill being considered by state lawmakers that would bar those children from attending state run colleges.