A few illegal immigrants might be able to enroll in North Carolina community colleges next year – if there is room, and if they can come up with the $7,700 annual tuition. The policy change adopted Friday by the N.C. Board of Community Colleges is likely to do little to reduce crowding, or to address the larger problem of illegal immigration.
What it will do is anger people who don’t believe the government and employers have done enough to discourage desperate people from crossing the border, and provide more fuel for anti-immigration groups. Meanwhile, some Hispanic advocacy groups say the high tuition all but bans admission.
Lost in the debate are foreign-born children who did not come here of their own free will. They were brought here by parents who took great risks to come to a place where work was plentiful and where even a low-wage job provided a better standard of living.
Those children have attended American schools, learned to speak English and made grades good enough to qualify them for admission into a community college or university.
The policy adopted Friday is an attempt to recognize that those young people were innocent bystanders in their parents’ attempt to make a better life, but also to acknowledge that it is unfair to turn away legal residents who meet all the requirements and give a seat to someone who is in the country illegally.
Under the policy, seats would only be made available to illegal immigrants after all legal residents who meet admissions standards are enrolled. They would be denied financial aid. And they would pay almost five times the price as legal residents to attend a community college.
For that reason, the board estimates that very few illegal immigrants will qualify. Our community colleges are already seeing high demand by displaced workers and other legal residents. There will be little room for those who didn’t come here through legal channels.
The battle over whether or not to admit children of illegal aliens misses a larger issue, and that is what happens to teenagers whose parents brought them to this country as youngsters, who went to American schools, stayed out of trouble and made the grade.
They are here through no fault of their own, and for many the United States of America is the only home they know. Only the most heartless immigration policy would return those young people to a place that is foreign to them without offering an opportunity to work toward legal residency, and then U.S. citizenship.
Although their parents broke the law to get here, the children are not culpable. They were minors, following parents who dreamed of a better life for their children.
Our immigration laws should recognize that fact by permitting them to do what is necessary to earn the right to stay in this country.
The United States can always use another good citizen.