Veteran attorney: Now is the time for NC to end tuition discrimination against immigrants

In case you missed it last week, be sure to check out a powerful essay authored by veteran North Carolina attorney Hampton Dellinger for WRAL.com. As Dellinger explains, it’s long past time for North Carolina to make higher education accessible and affordable to young, undocumented immigrants by allowing young people who’ve grown up here and graduated from North Carolina high schools to pay in-state tuition rates. Current law requires them to pay exorbitant, out-of-state rates.

Dellinger cites three main reasons.

Number One is the state constitution. As he explains:

…as a matter of law, the robust education rights enshrined in the North Carolina Constitution are not limited to citizens but extend to “people” and “all students.”

While other rights, particularly those relating to office holding and voting, are reserved to citizens, the vital education guarantees go uncircumscribed and apply to all who call North Carolina home.

Number Two is the obvious benefit to our society that such a change would bring about:

Immigrants not only culturally enrich our society, they also literally enrich North Carolina’s economy through labor force contributions and paid taxes.

He also notes that allowing immigrants to attend our colleges and universities at in-state rates will help produce large numbers of new and skilled workers and help address the problem of declining enrollment on some college campuses — a problem worsened of late by the pandemic.

Number Three is the matter of simple human decency and morality. After noting how immigrants have been wrongfully scapegoated by President Trump and his allies, Dellinger puts it this way:

And their community contributions come with nearly none of the benefit returns afforded citizens despite undocumented immigrants paying sales, payroll, and other taxes. In spite of the hardships placed on their parents, many childhood arrivals succeed in North Carolina schools aided in no small measure by supportive family, friends, teachers, and school staff. For the State of North Carolina to then put an often insurmountable obstacle in the path of these kids, and just at the moment all their hard work has paid off in the form of a high school diploma, is – in a word – heartless.

Let’s hope the 2021 General Assembly heeds Dellinger’s humane and commonsense recommendation as quickly as possible.

Click here to read the entire op-ed.

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