Public officials who are realistic about immigration, outspoken on the subject, and able to act accordingly are frustratingly rare. Thus it's cheering to discover Sheriff Jim Pendergraph of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Charlotte and vicinity), recently profiled in VDARE.COM (North Carolina Sheriff Uses 287(G) Powers, Acts Against Illegal Immigration! by J. Paige Staley)
More recently, Pendergraph's doings and opinions are at the center of an excellent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Why in Philly's paper? Who knows?) about North Carolina's immigration stresses by Inquirer reporter Paul Nussbaum: A surge in immigration is spawning a backlash , Oct. 15, 2006. An excerpt:
"With anti-immigration feelings running high and elections just three weeks away, this once-insular state has become a key actor in the national debate over how to absorb—or expel—illegal migrants. North Carolina has had a greater [percentage] increase in foreign-born population over the last 15 years than any [other] state in the nation: a 412 percent increase, almost five times the national average.
"The same concerns and fears being voiced from Hazleton, Pa., to Riverside, N.J., to Phoenix, Ariz., are writ large in North Carolina. Illegal immigration has figured prominently in political campaigns here and in neighboring counties of South Carolina.
"'This is the hottest issue I've ever seen,' said Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, a Democrat who is running for reelection. 'And it's going to be the hottest issue, maybe next to Iraq, in the presidential election in two years.'
"Pendergraph said he had received hundreds of laudatory e-mails and letters from constituents and dozens of inquiries from other jurisdictions since he teamed with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to train 12 deputies to screen prisoners for their immigration status. Since the program started in April, his office has processed 653 immigrants for deportation.
"Now the sheriff is lobbying for a federal immigration court and detention center in Charlotte to handle more cases.
"'Congress has let us down. And a lot of the politicians are doing the three-monkey thing—hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil—because they're so afraid of political correctness,' the sheriff said. 'Political correctness is going to cause us to lose this country.'"
Heartened by the article, I phoned Sheriff Pendergraph's office to leave a message of "Attaboy! Keep it up!" with the staffer who answered, hoping it would reach the Sheriff himself.
I emphasized that Pendergraph's statement about political correctness threatening the country's future demonstrated his thorough understanding of the situation.
To my astonishment, Mr. Pendergraph returned my call—and within half an hour! So I took the opportunity to reiterate the importance of what he's been doing and what a rarity it to find a public official so in tune with us lowly citizens on this nation-busting subject.
Turns out that the Sheriff is a great admirer of Tom Tancredo and that he's had significant help from his local Congresswoman Sue Myrick, who's really been coming up-to-speed on the subject.
I also got to ask him, "As a sworn law enforcement officer, didn't you take an oath to the U.S. Constitution? And doesn't that mean you're both empowered and obligated to enforce federal immigration laws?" Sheriff Pendergraph quickly agreed.
Well, getting such callbacks from the Sheriff is probably rare. I'll guess that receiving a message from my exotic locale (Bozeman, Montana) intrigued him, so I lucked out.
And anyway, we don't want him spending time on the phone with us. We want him at work making life difficult for illegal aliens!
So instead of phoning him, readers—lots of them, I hope—should send Sheriff Pendergraph a message of enthusiastic approbation via his website.
It's also worth noting that the Inquirer's article is a pretty good piece of reporting on immigration matters. Of course, after informing us about Sheriff Pendergraph's take-charge approach, reporter Nussbaum turned to a community-organizer type, eliciting a fairly memorable whimper:
"Angeles Ortega-Moore, [Send her mail] executive director of the Latin American Coalition here, said, 'We are treated like disposable people. It's like we were a disposable—they want to use us and throw us away.'
"She agrees that the immigration issue has become the hot-button issue of the current political season: 'We're the gay-lesbian marriage of this election.'"
But instead of wrapping up his article with more sob-story material like that, Nussbaum returned to the theme of enforcement, fleshing out some details of what Pendergraph is doing and then finishing with this flourish:
"Bill James, a Republican county commissioner, has been outspoken in favor of tougher laws aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from receiving county benefits and at landlords and employers of illegal immigrants. He said that if Republicans, now a 6-3 minority on the county board, take control, there will be a crackdown on migrants.
"'My goal is to make being an illegal in Mecklenburg County both a dangerous proposition and an uncomfortable one,' James said. 'It's going to be like that saying at closing time at the bar: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." ' "
If you want to compliment Nussbaum on his work, try 215-854-4587 or email him.