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Immigrant Advocates Call for Henderson County Commissioner's Resignation

Cass Herrington
BPR News

Immigrant service providers in Henderson County are calling for the chairman of the county board of commissioners to resign. They say that comments Chairman Grady Hawkins made at a recent meeting is a breach of his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. 

During the commissioner’s meeting on June 3, opponents of the county’s agreement with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement voiced concerns  -- like their belief that cooperating with ICE will affect udocumented immigrants’ trust in local law enforcement.  In addition, they argue the 287(g) agreement potentially violates the Fourth Amendment, the constitutional right to due process. 

Before moving on to the next item on the agenda, Chairman Hawkins responded:

“I’m not sure if you’re here illegally why you’re privy to the Constitution that the rest of the American people are,” Hawkins said. 

Immigration Attorney George Pappas is calling that statement, “absurd.” 

“That an elected official who took an oath of office to protect the United States Constitution could not get right that basic responsibility,” Pappas said.  

The Constitution in many cases uses the term “people” or “person,” rather than “citizen.” Individuals considered non-citizens are also protected under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. 

In a letter published in the Asheville Citizen Times, Pappas, El Centro and True Ridge called for Hawkins’ resignation. Pappas says he’s also urging fellow board members to resign, unless they denounce Hawkins’ comment. 

“The people of Henderson County need to hear that and the board needs to be reminded of what their constitutional responsibility is,” Pappas said.

Commissioner Rebecaa McCall says she doesn’t see anything wrong with Hawkins’ statement. 

“Why should we ignore our own laws for the immigrants?,” McCall said. “That’s what they’re asking us to do, they’re asking us to go above the constitution and ignore our laws for immigrants.”

Grady Hawkins tells BPR he stands by his comment and does not intend to resign.  

The commissioners next regular meeting is Wed., July 10 at 9am. 

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