Roy Cooper: Ignorant of Basic Law

No federal law prohibits North Carolina from admitting illegal immigrants to its colleges and universities, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said today.The statement from federal officials contradicts a letter sent this week by the office of state Attorney General Roy Cooper.The letter from Cooper’s office advised the state Community College System that federal law bars the admission of illegal immigrants to public colleges and universities, even if they pay out-of-state tuition.The letter said that the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, was responsible for enforcing the law and offered to ask the department for further clarification of the law.

newsobserver.com | Feds: College OK for illegal immigrants

So, what kind of person randomly makes up U.S Federal laws about undocumented immigrants (illegal, he calls them) and college? Well, the top lawyer of North Carolina’s government, Attorney General Roy Cooper of course! Glad that he was caught out.

The issue? The hordes (350 or so scattered around the University and Community college system) of undocumented immigrants who pay out-of-state tuition and are admitted on merit to attend colleges in North Carolina. Conservatives want college systems to enforce immigration law. What next, have your papers checked every time you fill gas? The claim has often been made that there are a lot of hidden costs that this out of state tuition does not cover and actually, even out of state tuition paying students are being subsidized. No data has been put forward to back up this claim. Note the hactackularness of this tome by the John Pope institute, which makes a lot of conclusions based on their analysis of census data while not actually sharing any of the analysis/results.

Clearly, undocumented immigrants are not overwhelming the system, or even making a dent. So, this is all about demagoguery and I am glad that Governor Easley has overruled his attorney general and come out against colleges acting as immigration police. Life for one of these students is hard enough as it is, getting past the high admissions standards, affording the steep out-of-state tuition, they don’t need to keep looking over their shoulder every time they go to class.

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5 comments for “Roy Cooper: Ignorant of Basic Law

  1. Sadly Mistaken
    May 16, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Read the AG’s letter. It does not say what the paper reports. Only the paper uses the words illegal immigrants. And that is to sell the paper. The letter does not advise the Colleges that federal law bars admission. It says the courts are unsettled on the matter. This is the paper creating controversy to sell the paper.

    As a researcher you should know to go to the primary source.

  2. May 17, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I did read the letter and yes, he does not use the magic lines “Illegal must not go to college”. His prose is much more political and lawyerly. But, his letter can’t really be interpreted any other way. He says federal law denies benefits to undocumented immigrants, but somehow weasels in an interpretation that even offering admission at out of state tuition rates is a “benefit”. This is the crux of his misinterpretation.

    Of course, the N&O converted all his undocumenteds into illegals, typical of them. But this is not a case of a paper making a big deal. The letter is pretty damning. If you read the follow up article interviewing Scott Ralls, the community college system president, he does say that they found the letter ambiguous, which it is, and asked for clarification. It is on this clarification that they made their so called decision.

    No one’s being very honest or clear here, but Roy Cooper’s letter, while vague, definitely interprets every statute in a way that bars undocumented immigrants. This was unnecessary and unwarranted under the law.

  3. Sadly Mistaken
    May 17, 2008 at 11:57 am

    No, I don’t see anything in the letter that determines whether admission is a benefit or not. It appears carefully drafted not to say that. Yes, it is lawyerly. That is because, well, they are the State’s lawyers.

    Having read the letter I think you must also concede that the AG never refers to any immigrant as “illegal” as you state with such assurance and spite in your original post. It is the paper that uses those words and it is the paper that has created uneccesary confusion.

    Your continued reliance on the N&O to reach conclusions about what advice may or may not have been given in a private meeeting is mystifying. State agencies have a long history of wanting to blame decisions on their lawyers (as do many private entities). But lawyers don’t make the policy decisions.

    This is all a charade. The AG’s letter does not dictate that the Community Colleges do one thing or another. My reading of the letter is that both admitting or not admitting immigrants can pass “judicial scrutiny”, one is more likely to, but it does not say the other wouldn’t. This means no action was dictated by the AG. The AG just gave the Community Colleges a legal risk assessment.

    The Community Colleges likely assessed the non-legal risks, like the mood of their constituents, and chose what they considered to be best for them from a policy perspective and then throw up their hands and claim they were just following the advice of their lawyers. Quite a performance if you ask me.

  4. May 17, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    You’re right. This conversation had me thinking and looking a little more deeply into the Kabuki theater between Scott Ralls, the N&O and Roy Cooper, which is a bit suspicious. And of course, Roy Cooper does not use the word illegals, that’s all the N&O’s wonderful doing. I wrote <a href=”http://www.oliveridley.org/2008/05/17/no-stop-using-the-word-illegal/”a short post about that, really pisses me off!

    No shortage of blame here, Scott Ralls is playing some kind of game here, absolutely right about that. But all Roy Cooper had to say was that he could find no law forbidding undocumented immigrants from college and leave it at that. He half says that in the letter, then half gives Scott Ralls permission to deny admission. He did not have to do that. All the additional bits in the letter provide cover for the community college system to discriminate. He just had to say that there was no legal basis for discrimination and end the letter.

    But, thanks for the comments, definitely had me digging deeper and finding that the Community College administration was no innocent in this matter.

  5. Sadly Mistaken
    May 17, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I don’t know if I am right or not. Who knows. But I do think if the N&O had not (as it continues to do) reported that the AG said you can’t let “illegals” in (which he didn’t say) then it would have been harder for the Community Colleges to change their policy.

    I believe the N&O, by sensationalizing a somewhat say-nothing advisory letter, gave cover to the Community College to cave to their local governing boards. Had they just reported what the letter said and not their spin on it I doubt there would have been a change.

    Kabuki dance indeed!

    Oh well, let’s go back to fixing the environment. Thanks for your work.