Late yesterday afternoon, UNC system president Erskine Bowles stated that UNC will be studying a proposal to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens. “We can’t stick our heads in the sand,” Bowles told the Raleigh News & Observer. “These people are here, and we have to deal with it. The last thing in the world we want to do is create another permanent underclass.” (For more on the immigrant “underclass,” see our response to President Lancaster.)
Bowles is following the lead of Governor Mike Easley (D) and NCCS President Martin Lancaster here. Governor Easley — comparing illegals to a cold (i.e., a virus) — has stated that he wishes the federal government would secure the border. But they haven’t, and so North Carolina has to deal with this problem by providing illegal immigrants with a college education. You’ll hear that from a lot of governors. You won’t hear it from the governors of Georgia, Arizona and Colorado, though. These governors have done one basic thing: Asked illegals to leave -– by signaling that the state is no longer going to extend public benefits to illegal immigrants. North Carolina doesn’t have to wait on the federal government, it can act on its own to remove the incentives that are encouraging illegals to come to North Carolina.
Still, we want to thank Erskine Bowles for clarifying what this debate is really about. First, the community college system decides to give out-of-state tuition to illegal immigrants. For its part, UNC has been doing so for a long time now. Next, we will hear that because most illegals cannot afford to pay out-of-state tuition, it is only fair that they be given in-state tuition. As Bowles points out, though, neither the UNC system nor the community college system has the power to do so. Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, only the N.C. General Assembly can authorize the extension of in-state benefits to illegals. (They can only legally do so, however, if they also extend in-state tuition to all American citizens — that is, if they abolish altogether the distinction between in-state and out-of-state tuition.)
Thus, the debate will move to the General Assembly, which considered such legislation in 2005.
In the end, we will hear that because the state has already provided an education to illegal immigrants, it is only fair that they be permitted to work legally in North Carolina. Here, the Left has one thing right: Opening up the public higher education system to illegal immigrants is nothing other than a pathway to amnesty.
PS – Don’t be surprised if the Democrat gubernatorial candidates — Richard Moore and Beverly Perdue — flip-flop on this issue. If Perdue, in particular, really opposed this policy she would use her influence in the Senate to pass legislation prohibiting the state from subsidizing the college education of illegal immigrants. The only chance we have of that happening is if this issue can be kept alive until the General Assembly goes back into session in May 2008.