Local Politics

Commissioners split on idea of illegal immigrants at Wake Tech

Posted November 2, 2009 3:40 p.m. EST
Updated November 2, 2009 6:52 p.m. EST

— A tie vote among Wake County commissioners on Monday scuttled a proposed resolution against the state's recent decision to allow illegal immigrants to enroll in community colleges.

The North Carolina Board of Community Colleges voted in September to allow illegal immigrants to enroll at any of the state's 58 two-year colleges, provided they graduated from a U.S. high school and pay out-of-state tuition rates. Also, lawful U.S. residents would have priority to crowded classrooms.

Wake County Commissioner Paul Coble introduced a resolution Monday saying the move was "met with disfavor and is received unfavorably" by the Board of Commissioners because many local residents are upset by the state's decision. The resolution also directed  County Manager David Cooke to write a letter of objection to the community college system board.

The idea was killed when the Board of Commissioners split 3-3 on the resolution. Commissioners Tony Gurley and Joe Bryan supported Coble's resolution, while commissioners Betty Lou Ward, Lindy Brown and Stan Norwalk voted against it.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Harold Webb, who is recovering from a recent stroke, didn't attend the meeting.

"I'm not sure what part of illegal those of you who don't support this do not understand," Coble told his fellow commissioners.

Tony Asion, executive director of El Pueblo, an local advocacy group for Latinos, said most of the students who would be enrolling under the new policy were brought to the U.S. as children and have grown up in the country.

"The sad part is (opposition to the state's decision is) on the backs of children that should be able to go to school," Asion said.

Norwalk and others said they felt Coble's resolution was strictly political.

"I am embarrassed this would come before the board," he said. "I think it's shameful."

Only four of the more than 17,000 students who take classes at Wake Technical Community College are in the U.S. illegally, and President Steve Scott said the college makes about $2,000 in profit on each by charging out-of-state tuition.

"I am an educator. I am in the business of providing education to as many people as possible," Scott said.

North Carolina's community colleges have changed their policies on enrolling illegal immigrants four times since 2000. The latest change won't take effect until next year, allowing colleges to implement administrative rules to carry out the policy.