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NAACP's Haley suspended over migrant comments

Teresa Haley speaks during an NAACP conference call in October.
Teresa Haley speaks during an NAACP conference call in October.

UPDATE 12 p.m. Friday:

The NAACP has suspended Illinois State Conference President Teresa Haley after she made disparaging remarks about the ongoing migrant crisis in Chicago during a conference call with organization leadership.

Haley, who is from Springfield and the longtime head of the local NAACP chapter, called migrants "savages" and "rapists." A video of the Oct. 26 call was posted online.

After calls for her to resign, the NAACP issued the following statement Friday:

“The NAACP stands firm in our commitment to advancing racial justice and cultivating a society where human dignity is respected. As of December 13, NAACP Illinois State Conference President Teresa Haley has been suspended. As an internal matter, there will be no additional comment at this time. The NAACP will continue to foster an environment that is reflective of our mission and respective of our membership.”

The organization said reaffirmed its commitment to the mission to advance racial justice and build a world in which all people can exercise their civil and human rights without discrimination.

On Thursday, Haley issued an apology.

“First and foremost, I express my sincere apologies to anyone who may have been hurt or
offended by my comments. I love and value all members of our communities—including
immigrants. I have worked tirelessly to advocate for the underserved and the voiceless. I remain focused on denouncing injustices, racism, and discrimination.

I am empathetic to the plight of all people, and I proudly serve as a beacon of hope to the hopeless. I embrace the mission of the NAACP, which is to “Achieve equity, political rights, and social inclusion by advancing policies and practices that expand human and civil rights, eliminate discrimination, and accelerate the well-being, education, and economic security of Black people and all persons of color," she said.

In the video, Haley appeared to take exception to priority being given to migrants over Black residents.

"Black people have been on the streets forever and ever and nobody cares because they say that we’re drug addicts, we got mental health issues. But these immigrants who come over here, they’ve been raping people, they’ve been breaking into homes, they’re like savages as well. They don’t speak the language and they look at us like we’re crazy,” she said.

The backlash came from several people, including the president of the DuPage County NAACP. Patrick Watson said he found her comments alarming.

"It’s okay to express your issues and concerns. But it is not okay to degenerate an entire group of people and to use that type of language," he said.

Watson said he filed a complaint with national leadership.

“Virtually all of us came here from somewhere else. So remarks like that are commentary on our entire society. Extraordinarily inappropriate," Gov. Pritzker replied when asked about the comments.

Haley has served in the state director role since 2015.

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