Local Politics

Community colleges could lift ban on illegal immigrants

Posted August 14, 2008 4:57 p.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2008 10:24 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina community college officials could lift a ban on admitting illegal immigrants as soon as Friday.

The state Board of Community Colleges on Thursday learned about a recent Department of Homeland Security notice that said the federal government does not bar state community colleges from admitting illegal immigrants to degree programs.

In May, the community college system directed its 58 colleges to deny admission to illegal immigrants because officials were concerned that admitting them violated federal law.

The board will meet again Friday to discuss lifting the ban and will also be asked to approve a plan to hire a consultant to study admission practices at other institutions.

“They’re very thoughtful people. We have 21 members of the state Board of Community Colleges. Twenty voting members represent the entire state of North Carolina and they are taking this very seriously,” board spokesman Chancy Kapp said.

Community college system President Dr. Scott Ralls urged the board Thursday to consider a policy to support its open-door philosophy, while also addressing residents' concerns regarding admission.

"While many of these students may not have arrived in the United States legally, many of them came as minors," Ralls said. "And for what it's worth, I have difficulty with the notion of punishing minors for the actions of their parents."

But Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, an ex-officio member of the board, sent a letter urging the board to uphold the ban.

"I simply do not understand the policy rationale for moving from a position of banning admissions altogether to one of opening them up in a largely unrestricted fashion for a brief period while the board decides on what would be the best policy," Perdue stated in the letter.

Amy Auth, communication director for Republican gubernatorial candidate Mayor Pat McCrory said he is "absolutely opposed to allowing illegal immigrants into the community college system."

U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Republican from Charlotte, is proposing a bill to withdraw federal funding if schools knowingly admit illegal immigrants.

“We just can’t wink at it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Illegal is illegal,” Myrick said.

The North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents supports a policy of the University of North Carolina system, which only admits undocumented immigrants who graduated from U.S. high schools.

In North Carolina, 800,000 students attend 58 community colleges. Of those, a fraction – 112 at last count – are illegal immigrants.