Obama favors college for illegal immigrants

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama suggested this weekend that the children of illegal immigrants should have an opportunity to attend community colleges.

Obama said children who attended public schools should have the chance to continue to improve themselves rather than being consigned to the fringes of society.

“For us to deny them access to community college, even though they've never lived in Mexico, at least as far as they can tell…is to deny that this is how we've always built this country up,” Obama said in an interview over the weekend with WUNC during a campaign stop in Greensboro.

The campaign of GOP presidential hopeful John McCain issued a statement saying McCain opposes providing benefits to illegal immigrants, but did not specifically address whether they should be permitted to attend community colleges.

“John McCain does not support amnesty or benefits for undocumented immigrants,” his campaign said. “He has consistently opposed giving amnesty or public benefits to undocumented immigrants.”

In his interview with WUNC, Obama said he favored tightening border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. But he also said there must be a path to citizenship for those already in the United States.

Obama said many children of Mexican immigrants have spent nearly their entire lives in the U.S. and “for all practical purposes they are an American kid.”

Earlier this month, the state Board of Community Colleges agreed to spend up to $75,000 to study whether to admit illegal immigrants as students. There were 112 illegal immigrants among the 300,000 students enrolled in the state community college system last year.