Durham County

Durham city, county officials create immigration, refugee task force

A crowd at the March 5 immigration and refugee forum brings signs to promote Durham as inclusive.
A crowd at the March 5 immigration and refugee forum brings signs to promote Durham as inclusive.

Misinformation from rumors, comments or social media is a concern of Banlly Baquedano.

Baquedano, a mother of two, voiced those concerns at a March 5 forum hosted by the N.C. Congress of Latino Organizations (NCCLO) and Durham Congregations Associations and Neighborhoods (Durham CAN).

“When we don’t have the correct information, it’s difficult to be able to say or to give a correct answer that’s able to eliminate those kind of fears and address this misinformation,” Baquedano.

It’s concerns like Baquedano’s, another 1,300 immigrants, refugees, their families or supporters in the March 5 audience and and another 300 at a forum held Feb. 21 at Maureen Joy Charter School that is leading county and city officials to create a task force in Durham County related to refugees and immigrants, said Wendy Jacobs, Durham County Commissioners’ Chairwoman.

Jacobs spoke about the idea of the task force during the March 5 forum and followed up during a Durham Directors Group meeting Tuesday, which is comprised of county and city leadership, representatives of police and sheriff’s departments and mental health and human services.

“We are following up with what we said we were going to do,” she said.

The immigration and refugee task force will be a subcommittee of the Durham Directors Group.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion about exactly what is coming down and what it means for us locally,” Jacobs said.

The task force creation is to respond to changes related to immigration and refugee policies -- from the federal and state government -- and coordinate communication within the community about those changes.

The task force will include representatives of: the Department of Social Services, Durham Public Schools, the court system, public health,Durham Police Department, the sheriff’s department, the city of Durham, the county government, El Centro, Durham CAN and Church World Service.

Ellen Andrews, director, of Durham Immigration and Refugee Program for Church World Service, commended public officials for recognizing “the value of refugees and immigrants” in the local community.

“We look forward to participating in conversations with the county commissioners and other community stakeholders to promote inclusivity and belonging for all Durham residents,” Andrews said.

As for Baquedano, she charged public officials to provide answers.

“We ask for answers that are based on peace and justice,” she said.