Undocumented students seek equity

Posted June 17, 2014

Five undocumented students walked from Charlotte to Raleigh this month to call attention to their quest for in-state tuition eligibility.

— A group of undocumented students and supporters met at the General Assembly Tuesday for an "UndocuGraduation" – an event intended to highlight the difficulties many face in paying for college.

Five of those students walked from Charlotte to Raleigh – 140 miles over the past nine days – to ask lawmakers to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students who graduate from North Carolina high schools. 

Such students would qualify for in-state tuition if they were legal citizens, but because they are not, they are charged the higher out-of-state rate. In addition, many can't get loans or scholarships because of their immigration status, so they have to pay for college out of their pockets.  

For families already struggling to get by, said walker Rogelio Gallegos, college is often beyond their means.

Gallegos, 17, a rising senior at East Mecklenburg High School, said he's not sure how he and his sister will afford to continue their education. His family came to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 6.

Like many in his generation, Gallegos is covered by DACA, or Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, a 2012 federal program that protects undocumented children brought to the U.S. from deportation as long as they're in school or the military or have graduated high school.

But DACA is a temporary program that does not confer legal immigration status.   

"We're hard-working, and we're here for our education," Gallegos said. "We're not criminals. We just want to study here and be law-abiding citizens. But we're not citizens." 

Walker Elver Barrios, 23, is now a student at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, but he struggled for five years to figure out how to afford college. He said he doesn't want others in his community to face the same hurdles. 

"This is what we're willing to do for our education," Barrios told the crowd. "I walk because this is my future. I walk because this is my life." 

Four valedictorians of Charlotte high schools this year are undocumented or DACA students.

Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, attended the rally. He works for the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system.

"I'm out here because some of my students are out here, students I've worked with and have known since they were very young," Meyer said. "They're out here standing up to say, 'We've gone through North Carolina schools, and we want the ability to have an affordable college education.'"   

Last spring, House Democrats filed House Bill 904, a proposal for tuition equity for some immigrant students. It was never heard by committee. Meyer said he doesn't expect that to change in the waning days of this short session, but he's hopeful for 2015.

"We're trying to build relationships across party lines to find a coalition of people who would support this," he said. "Maybe we can finally have a committee meeting where these students can have their voices heard."


This blog post is closed for comments.

Newest First
View all
  • wilson321 Jun 17, 2014

    Oh the poor illegal aliens are having a hard time paying for school; well who isn't. Maybe they should go back home and get an education there.

  • Terry Watts Jun 17, 2014
    user avatar

    Don't kid yourself Kids... UNC won't even give In-State tuition to Veterans...

  • AConservativePerson Jun 17, 2014

    Deport them all. That will show them equity. Illegal immigrants have absolutely NO rights in the US.

  • Billy the Kid Jun 17, 2014

    Go back to your home country.

  • glarg Jun 17, 2014

    In-state tuition is for people already paying State taxes that go to these schools. Are these illegals paying state taxes?

    It also encourages kids to stay in the state for their careers, but these illegal immigrants by definition have very weak ties to North Carolina.

    Its not clear that there is a compelling interest for the State of North Carolina to be subsidizing their higher education.

  • Kylie Marie Summerling Jun 17, 2014
    user avatar

    EVERYONE is having trouble paying for college. I certainly have no interest in illegal aliens getting money that should be going to our own kids and the veterans that need training! No one is owed a college education, and certainly not illegal aliens.

  • Todd Jenkins Jun 17, 2014
    user avatar

    This solution is simple…Call immigration services and send them back to their country.

  • outdoor592000 Jun 17, 2014

    Can you imagine us going into a country, illegally, and demanding benefits and equal status? Not sure what country out there would jump on that one.

  • Scott Boykin Jun 17, 2014
    user avatar

    I don't want to hear about equality...

    My daughter just graduated this past weekend. Finished 4th in her class... Didn't get a dime of scholarship money... If she was minority, or illegal, like some in this article, I'm sure thousands would have come her way...

    What happened to the day when you earned something for working hard??? Instead of getting handouts...

  • Michael Hart Jun 17, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    ah yes, and how do you know they are not citizens? Can you tell by looking at them? If they are born in this country they are legal citizens, notice there are 5...were are the thousands? and by the way even the GOP acknowledged that "deporting the all" is not a viable option