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Students from across North Carolina gathered on Halifax Mall outside the General Assembly today under the banner of “One State, One Rate” to advocate tuition equity in higher education for high school graduates with undocumented status. The Adelante Education Coalition led the “Undocugraduation” event as part of their “Let’s Learn NC” statewide campaign.

Maria Cortez-Perez, 18, a graduate of Southwest Guilford High School, speak to her peers and reporters on tuition equity for undocumented and DACA students in front of the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Photo by Ricky Leung / NC Policy Watch

Maria Cortez-Perez, 18, a graduate of Southwest Guilford High School, speak to her peers and reporters on tuition equity for undocumented and DACA students in front of the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Photo by Ricky Leung / NC Policy Watch

Donned in their graduation caps and gowns, students like Maria Cortez-Perez from Southwest Guilford High School aim to share their personal stories and speak with legislators to push for support of SB 463. Introduced by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Jr. (R – Cabarrus, Union), SB 463 would enable undocumented and DACA students like Cortez-Perez to afford higher education through in-state tuition. At least 18 states across the country, including Texas and Utah, currently allow in-state tuition for undocumented students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Latin American Coalition puts the latest number at 21, 17 through state legislative action and 4 through decisions of individual university systems.

Though graduating with a 4.2 GPA, being a member of various venerable groups such as Beta Club and National Honors Society, and despite having lived in North Carolina for 16 of her 18 years of life, Cortez-Perez, along with hundreds of her peers graduating from high schools in N.C. each year, are unable to afford out-of-state tuition or receive federal and state financial aid. Adelante estimates 42,000 undocumented students to be in N.C. schools.

“North Carolina has already invested in these students through their K-12 education and can benefit from allowing them to contribute to fill the need for a bilingual and educated workforce,” Adelante said in a press statement.

Standing on a stage facing the N.C. General Assembly building, Cortez-Perez spoke of her upbringing, of the accomplishments of herself and her peers, and of the undeterred hope of fulfilling the dream of a higher education and a better future.

“We are not in the shadows anymore,” Cortez-Perez said to a group of her peers and reporters. “People know of our accomplishments.”

As the “Undocugraduation” draws to a close, students pose for a photo and toss their caps in the air before dispersing to speak with legislators to advocate for SB 463, for tuition equity and for their chance to achieve their dreams.

News

Republican state legislators frustrated by a lack of progress on immigration reform on the federal level demonstrated Tuesday just how hard it can be to reach a compromise.

Members of the House Finance Committee were deeply divided over a provision in House Bill 328 that would offer a restricted drivers permit to undocumented immigrants who are willing to undergo a background check and be fingerprinted.

Rep. John Blust, R- Guilford, worried the bill would be an incentive for more immigrants to come to North Carolina.

Republican Rep. Bert Jones went a step further saying if immigrants were for the bill, that was all the proof he needed that committee members should oppose the measure.

Bill sponsor Rep. Harry, R-Rowan, was clearly frustrated by the direction of the debate telling his fellow Republicans:

“If you’ll step away from the politics of this for a minute, and look at the logic behind it, you’ll see this is the right thing to do,” explained Warren.

Warren says the Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act would help law enforcement, and ensure undocumented drivers actually carry insurance before getting behind the wheel.

Rep. Jones would not be persuaded:

“We should not be encouraging, should not be endorsing, should not be accepting illegal immigration in any way.”

For now, HB 382 remains in committee with the finance chair promising a vote at a future meeting.

To watch part of Tuesday’s debate, click below.

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Frank Bruni of the New York Times has authored an uplifting article about a candidate for student body president at UNC Chapel Hill that’s worth your time this morning (full disclosure: my daughter is helping to support his campaign):

“The campaign for student body president at the University of North Carolina here has just begun, and there’s nothing unusual in the number of candidates — five — or the fact that two are Morehead-Cain scholars, an elite designation.

But there’s a wrinkle that’s certain to generate discussion, especially in a state whose politics have taken a profoundly rightward turn. One of the candidates is an undocumented immigrant who readily identifies himself that way. In fact he’s at or near the head of the pack.

His name is Emilio Vicente. He’s a junior, 22, and a minority three times over: Latino, undocumented and gay. He came to the United States from Guatemala at 6, his mother leading him under barbed wire and into Arizona, as he recalls it. (He remembers the screech of a woman with them whose hair got caught.) And he flourished here, his grades earning him the private scholarship he needed for Chapel Hill, where he’s on this committee, that board, a one-man whirlwind of engagement.

Read the rest of the piece by clicking here. Read more about Vicente’s campaign by clicking here.

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In case you missed it, the editorial page of the newspaper at the heart of the state’s furniture industry (the High Point Enterprise) didn’t take to kindly to Governor McCrory’s rather odd attack last week in which he claimed that members of the industry helped override his veto of an immigration bill because they wanted to hire undocumented workers. This is from an editorial posted late Friday:

“Our reaction upon first hearing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s comment was: ‘Well, that’s a pretty irresponsible statement.’

Upon further review: Our call is confirmed.

On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled General Assembly overrode McCrory’s veto of a bill broadening state exemptions for using the federal E-Verify system to check immigration status of workers. During a State Board of Education meeting after the Legislature’s vote, McCrory said:

“Some of the manufacturers in towns like High Point worked hard for this bill because they, frankly, want to hire illegal immigrants as opposed to North Carolina workers and paying good wages.”

It’s ironic that McCrory’s comment came amid an educational setting, because his remarks certainly were neither very smart politically — nor factual. Read More

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A North Carolina House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the “RECLAIM NC” Act today, an Arizona-style immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Harry Warren and 13 others (including a key member of Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team, Rep. Ruth Samuelson). The proposal includes a raft of anti-immigrant provisions, including making it harder for undocumented immigrants to post bond for minor criminal offenses, requiring them to pay for their own incarceration time, and making it easy to seize and impound cars of people caught driving without insurance or a proper license. 

The bill also includes the odd and controversial twist of “requiring” all undocumented immigrants to register for a “restricted driving permit,” which would not the same thing as a driver’s license. Representative Warren claims that the driver’s permit requirement is intended to make all drivers safer by identifying folks who are driving on state roads.  This claim is belied, however, by the fact that bill: a) requires undocumented immigrants to register for a state ID card even if they have no intention of driving at all, and b) excludes many people from obtaining the driving permit at all.

Probably the most telling moment of this morning’s hearing was when the committee discussed the “show me your papers” provision, and Representative Rick Glazier asked  Warren how a law enforcement officer could form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone was in the country without papers. Watch the exchange here:

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As you can see, Read More