While the Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy is on break until after the SB1070 ruling, some of the state’s most virulently anti-immigrant legislators have switched gears to blocking relief for victims of the North Carolina’s mid-century eugenics program.
From 1929 to 1974, North Carolina subjected about 7,600 people deemed “unfit” for reproduction to a forced sterilization program. 2,000 of those victims are still alive. As anyone can reasonably predict, a disproportionate number of the victims were African-American women. In 2002, Kevin Begos wrote an award-winning series for the Winston-Salem Journal titled “Against Their Will,” which prompted an apology from governor Mike Easley for the program and led to the ongoing battle for compensation for the victims. Support for H947, the Eugenics Compensation Act, is bipartisan, and House Speaker Thom Tillis and majority leader Skip Stam support the bill.
That’s not stopping leading anti-immigrant representatives Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) and George Cleveland (R-Onslow) doing what they can to weaken or scuttle the bill. Cleveland said previously that North Carolina shouldn’t have to compensate the victims because “eugenics was a worldwide movement” and that no other state with a eugenics program has compensated its victims.
Tillis and Stam already had to have a press conference clean up Cleveland’s mess after he brought several victims and their families to tears after the representative voiced his staunch opposition. While Tillis has been trying to craft a different image for the NC GOP, old guard members like Folwell and Cleveland keep derailing his agenda. William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) has called for Tillis’ ouster after the speaker appeared unresponsive to his screeds.
Cleveland and Folwell are two of the leading anti-immigrants in the General Assembly. Both are regular sponsors of anti-immigrant legislation, and both sit on the anti-immigrant select committee and have sponsored bills that would prohibit or intimidate undocumented young people out of public education. Folwell’s HB744 was an attempt (a constitutionally dubious one at that) to intimidate undocumented minors out of attending public school. Folwell is also a member of State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), a nativist clearinghouse that was established with the help of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
By preventing reconciliation on eugenics and sowing division with anti-immigrant laws, Cleveland and Folwell are not only at odds with North Carolina’s past, but also its future.