Leaders of the state's community colleges voted today to close their doors to illegal immigrants until they complete a study and come up with a permanent policy.
The decision today by the State Board of Community Colleges marks a reversal from Thursday, when officials indicated they were inclined to admit illegal immigrants pending the outcome of the study.
Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, the Democratic candidate for governor, made the motion to ban illegal immigrants from community colleges while the study is ongoing. Eleven board members voted in favor of the motion. The board's chairman did not ask for "no" votes, noting that the 11 in favor were a majority of the 16 members eligible to vote.
The study represents the colleges' attempt to navigate a charged political atmosphere.
Several state politicians have already promised to try to pass laws this year that would deny admission to illegal immigrants, effectively nullifying any decision the board makes. Both candidates for governor have come out against college education for illegal immigrants.
And this week, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, said she plans to introduce a bill in September that would withhold federal funding from colleges and universities that knowingly admit illegal immigrants.
During a committee meeting Thursday, some board members said they had gotten heated messages from constituents on both sides of the issue.
In that environment, they said, there is no sense in making a hasty decision. Some said a well-researched policy could dissuade lawmakers from getting involved.