Local Politics

Community colleges uphold ban on illegal immigrants

Posted August 15, 2008 10:13 a.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2008 6:52 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina community college officials approved a motion Friday to uphold a ban on admitting illegal immigrants while they study the issue and determine a long-term policy.

In May, the North Carolina Board of Community Colleges directed its 58 colleges to deny admission to illegal immigrants because officials were concerned that admitting them violated federal law.

A recent Department of Homeland Security notice, however, said the federal government does not prohibit community colleges from admitting illegal immigrants to degree programs.

Eleven of the 16 members at the meeting voted in favor of upholding the ban, which applies only to new enrollment. Undocumented students who were registered prior to May 13 can continue their academic program.

The board will also hire an outside consultant to help establish the policy and how to enforce it. Members say they expect to have a policy in place by next August.

"This board and this system have been changing positions on this subject too many times. We need to know how other states are handling this issue," Dr. Stuart B. Fountain, chairman of the North Carolina Community College System's Policy Committee, said.

"We are not in this issue alone. We need to gather information. We need to know how to navigate the mind field of legal entanglement of this issue."

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

Out of North Carolina's 800,000 students in the community college system, about 112 are recognized as being illegal immigrants.

Some community college officials indicated Thursday they would like North Carolina to return to its previous "open door" policy, which allowed all applicants to enroll, regardless of their residency status.

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