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|10/7: Two NC lawmakers: Community colleges shouldn't admit illegal immigrants
Released 08 October 2009  By Corey Friedman
Gaston lawmakers: Community colleges shouldn't admit illegal immigrants
September 30, 2009 6:38 AM
GASTONIA — The community college entrance exam should consist of a single question, two state lawmakers say: Are you a legal American resident?
Answer yes, and you can attend any two-year school in North Carolina. Fill in the circle marked no, and you’ve flunked.
State Reps. Wil Neumann and Pearl Burris-Floyd plan to introduce a bill in the General Assembly that would block the enrollment of illegal immigrants in community colleges. They announced the move at a Tuesday news conference outside the Gaston County Courthouse.
“It will be a hot issue,” Neumann said, “but I think in these tough budget times, to ask the citizens of North Carolina who are out of work to continue paying for illegal students is unacceptable.”
The State Board of Community Colleges passed a new admissions policy Sept. 18 that allows illegal immigrants to attend two-year schools if they have received high school diplomas in the United States and pay the out-of-state tuition rate of $7,700 per year. Illegal students may not displace a United States resident from a class or program, the policy states.
Illegal immigrants are not currently admitted in North Carolina’s 58 community colleges. The new policy, which the state board approved in a 16-1 vote, is being codified through an administrative rules process that can take up to one year.
Neumann and Burris-Floyd said they would sponsor legislation to override the board’s policy and bar illegal immigrants from attending college.
“We must uphold the law of the land, and if we fail to do that, we are encouraging a lawless environment,” said Burris-Floyd. “In a lawless environment, no one is protected.”
The Republican lawmakers from Gaston County were primary sponsors of House Bill 294, which would have banned community colleges and state universities from enrolling illegal immigrants. Introduced in February, the bill stalled in the House Education Committee and won’t be heard next year.
Neumann said the House will have to consider his forthcoming bill because it seeks to overturn the policy of a General Assembly-appointed board. Legislators have the opportunity to review such policies before they take effect.
Both representatives said their constituents have been calling and writing them to express concern and displeasure with the board’s policy. They said illegal students wouldn’t be paying their own way even when charged the higher out-of-state tuition rate.
“While illegal residents do pay some taxes, their immigration status prohibits them from shouldering the same tax burden that legal residents do,” Neumann said. “Extending services to them essentially compels taxpayers to subsidize lawbreakers. That’s wrong!”
Illegal students admitted to community colleges couldn’t enroll in certain programs, such as law enforcement or nursing, because federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from holding some certifications.
Though the community college board policy allows all legal residents — North Carolina residents and out-of-state students — to take available seats before illegal immigrants, Neumann and Burris-Floyd said they fear illegal students could eventually be allowed to displace their legal classmates.
“I’m hearing from my constituents, ‘I can’t get into my program and I’m out of work,’” Neumann said. “Citizens have been very concerned. We want to make sure that legal citizens have every opportunity that is available to succeed.”
Illegal residents who were brought to the United States as young children and educated in American public schools should apply for green cards and seek citizenship, Neumann said. If necessary, they can return to the countries where they were born and apply for education visas to attend American colleges.
“There is no incentive for an adult that was brought here against their will as a child to do the right thing” if illegal immigrants are allowed to attend college, he said.
Burris-Floyd acknowledged that many illegal immigrants seeking education didn’t have a choice in coming to America. But, she said taxpayer-funded higher education should benefit U.S. citizens, not students who are here illegally.
“How do we allow individuals who have no allegiance to the United States of America to sit in the seat of someone who has citizenship?” she said. “I don’t understand it and I won’t support it.”
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