Local News

Sheriff apologizes for comments about illegal immigrants

Posted September 8, 2008
Updated September 9, 2008

— The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation and other civil rights groups in the state on Tuesday filed a public records request with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office after Sheriff Steve Bizzell made racially inflammatory statements.

In a Sunday article in the News & Observer of Raleigh, Bizzell talked about his frustration with the changing face of the county where he grew up. Bizzell called Mexicans "trashy" and said the growing Latino population in his county was "breeding like rabbits."

"Everywhere you look, it's like little Mexico around here," he said in the Sunday article.

The ACLU-NCLF alleges Bizzell’s statements in the article constitute direct evidence of racial discrimination and hostility toward Latino citizens and residents of Johnston County.

The group has asked for public records and documents from Bizzell pertaining to DWI checkpoints, driver’s license checkpoints arrests, jail bookings and other information on whether the county has complied with state law prohibiting racial or ethnic profiling by law enforcement.

“Blanket assertions like this about an entire class of people, again despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, if put into practice, are the very essence of racial and ethnic profiling by law enforcement that are prohibited by state law,” said Jennifer Rudginer, executive director of the ACLU in North Carolina.”

Bizzell apologized for the remarks on Sunday, saying in a one-paragraph statement that it wasn't his intention to make broad statements that reflected on legal and law-abiding Hispanics. He said his comments, made during interviews for a series of stories, were influenced by his anger over the death of a boy in April who was killed by a Hispanic drunken driver who previously had been convicted of driving while impaired.

"I obviously let my anger over this crime flash during the N&O interview," he said in his statement. "This is not a reflection on all immigrants, as legal immigration is both wanted and needed."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • What and Why Sep 10, 2008

    my2boys wrote: "Come to this country LEGALLY, obey our laws, get a job, learn ENGLISH, pay taxes." And, "If you want to speak Spanish at home, please do so. I think it is great to embrace your homeland's culture, but don't force me to change my American culture to fit."
    Consider this, my grandfather is an AMERICAN CITIZEN by birth born in the United States territory of Puerto Rico. He fought in three wars: Korean, Vietnam, and World War II. He took not one but two bullets during war time. He prefers to speak in Spanish, the most used language in the UNITED STATES TERRITORY Puerto Rico.
    Should he choose to be served in Spanish anywhere in this country it should be done with no questions asked. So the next time you hear someone speaking in Spanish or receiving public service in Spanish, maybe they took a bullet for your freedoms!

  • Candee35 Sep 9, 2008

    This Comment is so ignorant Wow...if you are going to be so racist then be racist and dont have two faces....whether you want to face it or not we are all immigrants from some way shape or form and there are lots of legal immigrants that have the same rights as everyone of you who chose to be so closed minded

  • familyfour Sep 9, 2008

    - all illegal activity needs to be addressed - and he should save the slang for his home - he's the sheriff...

  • turtledove Sep 9, 2008

    Europeans have picked on the Indians then blacks then the Jews then the Japanese now the Latinos wonder who's going to be the next group to spew racial remarks and hatred at.

  • news4u Sep 9, 2008

    "I don't want his apology. I want his badge," saidTony Asion, a native of Cuba. ""

    Get his badge you say - well let's see here:

    Convicted felons can't vote. Illegal immigrants can't vote.

  • coolmusicmom Sep 9, 2008

    I don't agree with what he said but I don't think the aclu should get their panties in a wad. Let's not group all hispanics in the words he used. Do not generalize. We need action against anyone who are doing illegal things. What can we do about the illegal immegrant drunk driver who had a hit and run accident and killed that seven-year old boy last year? Let's start there.

  • butch75 Sep 9, 2008

    ifcdirector...You should run for President....I think you could clean up thhis country with that attitude.Behind you 150%!!

  • iceprincess Sep 9, 2008

    There are a few not trashy and trying to live a better life, the American dream, if you will. But all you have to do is open your eyes, look around, especially in poorer areas, and you can see for your self. If you can't see it, you are blind.

  • iceprincess Sep 9, 2008

    I believe in free speech. Especially when the truth has been told.

  • jody41 Sep 9, 2008

    Just not comfortable with an ignorant Sheriff and it is that simple. Do you think the legal owners of businesses like La Casinna like being classified that mexico and ,exicans are trashy? I don't care for illegals no more than the next guy. However, Steve is wrong to comparee any race to ANIMALS...even if it is a rabbit. By the way La Cicinna pays county taxes. How do you think Steve felt about Illegals when they worked with him and his family in the collard patch?? Double standard...Stev is just a talker and this time it has landed him in hot water. I see though him...Don't have me snowed