Colleges' foot-dragging effectively bars students

From Hilda H. Gurdian, publisher and CEO of Charlotte's La Noticia, the Spanish-language newspaper:

We were told that a letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was all the community college system needed to reverse its ban on admitting undocumented students.

We were happy July 25 when we received a copy of the long-awaited letter. It was signed by former Mecklenburg Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, now a federal immigration official, and clearly stated it was up to individual states to decide whether to admit undocumented students to public, post-secondary institutions.

This letter was responding to a request for clarification by Dr. Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. community college system, after he ordered all 58 N.C. community colleges to ban undocumented students last May.

Our excitement faded, that afternoon, when we spoke on the phone with Ralls. He said the decision to accept undocumented students will wait to be discussed at the next community college board of trustees meeting, Aug. 15.

We have two concerns:

1. The May13 decision to bar admission to undocumented students was made quickly and without a board meeting. Why would the process to reverse that decision be different?

2. If students must wait until a decision the Aug. 15, they won't have time to register for fall semester, since registration ends Aug. 15.

We at La Noticia – with other Latino organizations – have raised these concerns with Scott Ralls and Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, who chairs the community college trustees. We are waiting for an answer.

Community colleges have always been the first door immigrants knock on in search of an opportunity to educate themselves and their children. For the well-being of the entire community, we hope that continues to be the case. An educated individual is better prepared to serve family and community. If community colleges return to an open-door policy, we will all benefit .