A Hispanic doctor running for state superintendent of education has found herself in the crosshairs of her own community after standing with Gov. Pat McCrory as he signed a bill to prevent “sanctuary cities” in the state.
Dr. Rosemary Fernandez Stein, a pediatrician, said she has lost more than 100 patients from the International Family Clinic in Burlington, which she owns with her husband.
The clinic is geared toward Hispanic patients and she said that she was told many of the patients switching were concerned that she would report them to immigration authorities.
Someone within the Alamance County Health Department who handles Medicaid patients told her the reason.
Stein cares for Hispanic children, who may often have illegal immigrant parents.
The bill, the Protect North Carolina Workers Act, expands E-Verify to government contracts and also puts in place measures to ensure that counties and municipalities cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Stein stood with McCrory last week in Greensboro as he signed the bill.
Since then she and her employees have come under fire from the Hispanic community on social media, as well as Chapel Hill AM station 1000, Radio La Grande.
The station hosted a pair of three-hour call-ins for listeners to rant about Stein.
Over the past week, Stein has been vilified on Facebook after a Hispanic woman, Karina Rosales, posted three pictures of Stein at the bill signing and asked people to stop using her clinic and to share the photos.
The post has since collected 175 comments and been shared more than 4,300 times.
Rosales said that Stein supported McCrory’s “anti-immigrant” law and that most of her patients were Hispanic, and for men and women to stop bringing their children to her practice.
Many of the comments on the post, most of which were in Spanish, said she was not Hispanic, but an Indian adopted by a Hispanic family; criticized her looks; called her an old witch; and assailed her with other more vulgar slurs.
Some comments also accused her of “treason” to her people.
Stein said that she still stands by her support of the bill, especially the section on sanctuary cities, which has sparked widespread protests in the Hispanic community.
“My young Hispanic boys and girls fall prey to undocumented with criminal records,” she said. ”I run a Hispanic practice, and the state is making a stand on keeping them safe. I said thank you for that law, it’s going to protect our children.”
The day after attending the bill signing, Stein said, she started hearing that some parents of her patients were upset. Then the threatening phone calls started pouring in.
“Some talked about beating me like a dog, or making sure the clinic was destroyed,” she said. “Our front desk person was visibly shaken and scared.”
Stein pulled her off of the front desk and called the Burlington Police Department for help.
The police department responded by making patrols of the area, Stein said.
Stein also posted a letter explaining her position on the bill, in both English and Spanish, to head off the escalation that she was seeing.
“The letter helped cut things off,” she said. “Things started cooling down almost right away, or at least stop escalating. The tension has sort of plateaued off.”
The biggest concern for her was that of the safety for her employees, who reported being harassed in public for where they worked.
The harassers “said, ‘Why would you work for someone like that, you should quit,’” she said.
She had friends come to the office to escort her employees to and from the office, to keep them safe from any retaliation.
While some of the patients she lost were afraid of retaliation for staying, some were agitators and those she would not want back, she said.
“I don’t want the waiting room filled with people who are so vicious and hateful,” she said.
Above the insults, what hurts her most is that she will never get to see the children that she lost ever grow up.
“We lost over 100 children, I will never get to know the end of their story,” she said.
Stein looks forward to putting the situation behind her and continuing with her work and her campaign.