June 1, 2011 Honorable Thom Tillis Speaker of the NC House of Representatives 2304 Legislative Building Honorable Paul Stam

NC House Majority Leader 2301 Legislative Building Dear Mr. Speaker and Mr. Leader: North Carolina is facing incredible challenges that have unsettled us all. We can only begin to truly transform and create a better state, worthy of our children, if we take the initial step of having open and courteous dialogue on the challenging issues, so that we may then begin to forge solutions.

It is with great concern that I write to inform you that today, June 1, 2011, I was approached by Representative Dale Folwell in a very intimidating manner that is unbecoming of a public official in this great state. Rep. Folwell's inappropriate behavior was not limited to just myself. His behavior was also directed at a young man who spoke against House Bill 744: Safe Students Act, during the public comment section of the Education Committee meeting on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. It is in his interaction with this youth that Rep. Folwell, in my opinion, disgraced his role as a public servant not only by emasculating this young man, but also by being grossly disrespectful and vulgar.

It is my request that Rep. Folwell's insolent behavior is chided, for behaving in such a manner creates an unsafe and unwelcoming environment not only for constituents from diverse backgrounds, but also for lobbyists. Further, this kind of shameful behavior threatens to stifle much needed dialogue on important and complex issues such as immigration.

Rep. Folwell abruptly approached me after the Judiciary A meeting this morning requesting that I give him the names and domiciles of all those who spoke during the public comment section of the House Education Committee on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. I reminded him that the Sergeant-at-Arms has a roster with the names and affiliations of everyone who spoke. Rep. Folwell then accused my organization of issuing a press release which he stated called him a "coward." I informed Rep. Folwell that my organization issued no such press release and that we never resort to name-calling, as our objective is to engage with Legislators in a respectful manner that is conducive to dialogue.

Our exchange was tense and it is my belief that I was singled out by the Member for having provided a differing opinion during the public comment section the day before on a bill that he is a Primary Sponsor and for appearing to be a member of the grassroots student group that indeed issued said press release. I challenged the Member's generalization

that I belong to the student group and informed him that he could no more assume that I belong to a certain group based on my ethnicity and cordial interactions with them, than I could assume that he belongs to anti-immigrant groups that I see him engaging with. We exchanged opposing opinions on the issue of immigration and then Rep. Folwell walked away.

Within a few minutes he returned to where I was standing in company of other immigrant advocates and allies, looking agitated and asked if the person/group who called him a "coward" was standing near me. Before I knew it, Rep. Folwell was in the face of the young man belonging to the student group that issued the press release. Rep. Folwell crossed the line when he said to this young man "you don't have the balls to call me a coward to my face do you?" He also demanded to know "are you an illegal?" Those of us who were standing amidst this disturbing scene were shocked and incredulous that a Member of the NC General Assembly would be so disrespectful not only to a constituent who had engaged in our democratic process the day before, but that he would be disrespectful to the people around him, but also to himself and the Body he represents. One of the immigrant advocates pulled out her phone and began to record the interaction of Rep. Folwell with this young man. Later in their interaction, Rep. Folwell asked the youth "you're a man? I want to talk to you, man to man." The unruly behavior of Rep. Folwell also engaged and riled up members of anti-immigrant groups who were standing nearby and led to an even further aggressive tone in the interaction--so much so that someone standing within earshot requested that the General Assembly law enforcement intervene.

The unfortunate incident from earlier today has no place in the NC General Assembly. Constituents should be able to feel safe when choosing to actively participate in the Democratic process and should not be intimidated, threatened or profiled by Members. We all need to work towards creating an environment that is conducive to dialogue so that we may address challenging issues affecting our state.

It is my expectation that this incident not go unnoticed by you, the leadership and that you deal with this situation swiftly and ensure that Members know how to interact with all of their constituents, including those who may not always agree with them or even those who choose to exercise their right to free speech.


Irene Godínez Legislative Director and Lobbyist Latin American Coalition

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