Siler City reopens applications for new immigrant advisory committee

BY VICTORIA JOHNSON, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/23/21

SILER CITY — After receiving too few applications for Siler City’s new immigrant advisory committee, the town has opened a second 30-day application period to solicit more letters of …

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Siler City reopens applications for new immigrant advisory committee

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SILER CITY — After receiving too few applications for Siler City’s new immigrant advisory committee, the town has opened a second 30-day application period to solicit more letters of interest.

“We just wanted to give people the opportunity, (and) to allow some time for others for the word to get out that we still needed additional applications to be able to fill the seven seats,” town manager Roy Lynch told the News + Record on Sept. 13.

The Siler City Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the formation of the town’s first Immigrant Community Advisory Committee on June 21. The idea originally emerged several years ago amid a two- to three-year community planning project called Building Integrated Communities (BIC).

Begun in 2017, this project brought the town, the Hispanic Liaison and community members together to identify immigrant residents’ needs and create a plan to address them. Forming an immigrant advisory committee was one such step in the project’s finalized plan, but the COVID-19 pandemic and personnel turnover delayed its implementation until June.

The original application period closed on Aug. 9. According to Lynch, the town had planned to compile and present all applications to the board during an August or September board meeting, but by the Sept. 7 regular meeting, the town had only received five letters of interest to fill the seven-member committee.

That’s when staff decided to reopen the application period beginning on Sept. 8.

“I think it’s based on the fact that maybe it took a little time for the information to get out about the committee,” Lynch said. “And so once the word was out to the community, I think the interest started to develop, and hopefully we’ll have a few more people.”

The second application window closes on Friday, Oct. 8. Once the town receives enough applications to fill all committee seats, Lynch said staff will present the applications to the board for review during their Oct. 18 regular meeting. As of Monday morning, the town has received three additional letters of interest — or eight in total.

Among those applicants, five have Siler City home addresses; one lives in Pittsboro and the other two live in Durham and Chapel Hill respectively.

According to the town’s resolution, the seven-member committee will provide a bridge between the board and immigrant residents, offer strategies to foment civic participation among immigrant residents and serve as a forum to both discuss and address the immigrant community’s concerns.

Committee members will also take the lead on implementing any and all recommendations outlined in BIC’s action plan to better serve the town’s immigrant residents.

“I think it’s a really important step to create more relationships and communication and a channel for the immigrant community to have direct communication with town commissioners, town management and town staff about issues in the community that are relevant and need to be uplifted and need to be talked about and addressed,” the Hispanic Liaison’s founder and executive director, Ilana Dubester, previously told the News + Record.

“We haven’t had that kind of space before within town government to do that,” she added at the time. “There hasn’t been an official channel. There’s been, of course, the Hispanic Liaison bringing up issues, but that’s not the same as having a body that is part of the town and that works closely with the town in an official capacity.”

Eligible committee members must come from “historically underrepresented communities” with recent immigrant ancestry — be that from Latin America or other parts of the world. As part of that, committee members must either be foreign-born or the children and/or grandchildren of immigrants. According to Dubester, documentation status doesn’t matter.

Apiring members don’t have to live in Siler City, but when it comes to choosing among the pool of candidates, the town will be looking for those with strong connections to Siler City.

“To me, if you want to build a town or a community, you have to have people that want to be here, and they want to stay here,” Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Bray told the News + Record in July. “ … You have to be a member of the community. People know who you are, and they can trust you and say, ‘Oh, yeah, I know so-and-so.”

To apply, interested applicants can submit letters of interest to the town clerk, Jenifer Johnson, at jjohnson@ silercity.org by Oct. 8. The letters should include applicants’ home addresses, contact information, educational background and current jobs. Applicants should also add in their level of civic involvement, why they wish to serve on the committee and anything else they deem necessary.

All positions are unpaid. Appointed committee members will serve in three-year staggered terms. Members may serve a second term if reappointed, but they must rotate off the committee for at least a year before serving a third term. Once formed, the committee will determine its own meeting schedule, but must meet at least once a month, if not more.

“I think (the committee’s) going to be great,” Lynch said, “and I believe that given time, we will receive additional applications for the board to be able to review.”

Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at victoria@chathamnr.com.

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