On Sept. 17, the North Carolina Board of Community Colleges voted 20-1 to allow undocumented immigrants to attend the state's community colleges. Two of those "yes" votes came from local board members: K. Ray Bailey, a Buncombe County commissioner and former president of A-B Tech, and G. Gordon Greenwood, CEO of Asheville Bank.
Both have drawn fire for the decision, and Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower is among their detractors. In an e-mail sent out Sept. 21, Mumpower called the move "government-sponsored cultural terrorism" and accused the board members of lying and betraying both the state and federal constitutions.
"It would be my position that the state Community College Board of Directors are also liars," wrote Mumpower, who has frequently called for the deportation of illegal immigrants. "Each of the twenty took an oath of office stating a commitment to uphold the U.S. and N.C. Constitutions. There is no truth in pretending their actions remotely support that oath. At a time when NC's unemployment rate is exceeding ten percent, those in charge have decided that illegal workers need access to more training."
Bailey defended the decision as a result of careful study.
"Undocumented aliens can already attend high schools, they can already attend public universities, so there was a gap there. We needed a policy that worked across the board," Bailey told Xpress. "Most of these students are the children of undocumented immigrants, and once they go through high school, get their diploma, [they] have no place to go. The students have to pay out-of-state tuition — which is enormous — and they can't take an open spot in a program while there are citizens on the list. This really applies to just a handful of people."
Bailey added that "who this affects are students who can pay the tuition, are working towards citizenship and are getting the skills they need to get a job."
Mumpower included a list of the board members in a separate e-mail and advised readers to contact them to express their displeasure. Bailey said he had received "one e-mail that was very negative. I've also heard from about a dozen people in person who supported my decision."
At press time, Greenwood had not replied to requests for comment.
Critics of the vote have asserted that tax dollars will end up supporting the education of undocumented immigrants who are here in violation of the law and don't pay taxes. Some undocumented immigrants do pay taxes through their employers or ID numbers provided by state and federal governments.
The decision to let undocumented immigrants attend was "unanimous, except for Lt. Governor Walt Dalton," Bailey noted. "The rest of us weren't thinking about politics — we just knew that this was the right thing to do."