Higher education denied to undocumented students

On Aug. 15, the State Board of Community Colleges voted to ban illegal immigrants from enrolling in state community colleges. Previously, students without documentation had been able to attend community college in North Carolina under certain conditions, such as having to pay out-of-state tuition, which is significantly higher.

This decision is the latest development in the state’s policy on undocumented students.

“I think this is extremely short-sighted and mean-spirited,” said Jorge Zeballos, the Latino community program coordinator. “Short-sighted because the impact of having hundreds or thousands of young people without a college education will only end up hurting the whole state. Mean-spirited because it seems an attempt to punish students for something they had no part in deciding.”

Most of the people potentially affected by the ban came to this country as children, brought by their parents in search of a better life. Because of this, many feel that this unjustly punishes the children of immigrants for something they had no control over.

“I think that it’s not fair that the undocumented students are denied an education just because they were brought to this country by their parents not knowing what the circumstances were,” said sophomore Yazmin Garcia Rico.

Ban supporters argue that North Carolina should not spend money to educate people who are not legal residents and may not pay taxes. They also fear that illegal immigrants are taking jobs and that educating undocumented students would only exacerbate that problem.

Zeballos believes the reasons behind the ban are more insidious.

“Ultimately, despite whatever the reasons offered for this action, one has to consider that xenophobia and racism might be the best descriptions for the decision,” said Zeballos.

According to Mark Justad, the Director of the Center for Principled Problem Solving, the ban cannot be discussed without also considering the larger issues surrounding it, such as immigration and historical precedents.

“This problem (illegal immigration) has been with the United States since we were first organized,” said Justad. “We have wrestled with the question of who gets in, why, and where, and we haven’t always handled it gracefully.”

Critics emphasize the effect denying education to otherwise qualified students will have. They believe that providing higher education to all who want it, regardless of citizenship, benefits everyone.

“This ban is impacting individuals, communities and our society as a whole, because these students are part of this country’s future,” said Garcia Rico. “When the students are not allowed to go to college they have no choice but to find a low-wage job, just like most of their parents.

“In this way, the cycle is continued from generation to generation, because basically they have limited or no opportunities to achieve the ‘American dream’ that brought them and their families to the country