From an editorial published in the Winston-Salem Journal on Friday:
In North Carolina, a young person incarcerated for a dangerous offense can take community college courses. But, if a handful of Republican legislators have their way, another young person, one who has done well in school, been a credit to his or her community and who has never committed a crime would be barred.
This is the contradiction of House Bill 218, sponsored by Reps. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, and Chris Whitmire, R-Transylvania, and three others. If the bill were to become law, young North Carolinians who do not have legal immigration status would be barred from attending the states community colleges. It would also affect students here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals imitative, or DACA, implemented by President Obama.
Barring these potential students is wrong.
These young people should be allowed to study at public community colleges and universities, paying the out-of-state tuition rate, as is the current practice. And they should not displace legal residents.
Most of the potential students involved came to the United States not as willful criminals but often as infants, toddlers and elementary schoolers. They did not make a conscious decision to break American law; they did what every child does when mom and dad pack up and move: They moved.
Once here, most of the young people whom Cleveland and Whitmire would deny an education stayed out of trouble, did well in school and contributed to their communities. Whether they are from a Hispanic country or someplace else, the U.S. is often the only country they know. Theyve lived here all their lives.
Cleveland and Whitmire use the immigration issue as political red meat for a certain constituency back home, but that doesnt mean that the General Assembly has to go along with these two. We are encouraged by the fact that the bill has only a few co-sponsors.
To bar these young people from our community colleges would be to deny them an opportunity for an education and it would contribute to the establishment of a permanent underclass here. That would do no one any good.
The bigger issue is a much-needed, national immigration reform act that is currently getting some bipartisan discussion in Washington. When that matter gets settled, we can only hope that it will open a pathway to education for these young people.
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