A vigil in defense of educational access

If you happened to walk or drive past the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville on Tuesday, Feb. 1, you probably noticed a sign-toting group gathered there. The monument’s a regular spot for protesters and those trying to raise awareness about various issues. In this case, the group was part of a state-wide protest — Vigils in Defense of Educational Access. At issue is a North Carolina bill that would ban undocumented immigrants from the state’s public universities and community colleges. See the full press release below.

(photos by Jerry Nelson)


On Feb. 1, youth and community leaders will gather for a vigil at Vance Memorial, Pack Square to call for the protection of education for all students. Asheville organizers are urging the leadership of the NC House and Senate to fight any legislation that would limit education and institute a system of segregation for students from immigrant families. North Carolina Representative George Cleveland (R – Onslow) has introduced HB 11, a bill that would ban undocumented immigrants from North Carolina’s public universities and community colleges.  On the anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins that courageously defied segregation, student and community leaders will honor the legacy of civil rights leaders and reflect on their concern to exclude thousands of hardworking students from education and participation in North Carolina’s economic recovery.

The North Carolina Department of Revenue collects income tax from undocumented immigrants using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs, which have been issued by the Internal Revenue Service since 1996.  In addition, all families and workers, pay sales taxes and property taxes which also fund local community colleges. Undocumented students should have a right to attend public post-secondary education in North Carolina, and have a right to pay in-state tuition as tax-paying state residents. Industry continues to use undocumented immigrant labor and the state insists on taxing undocumented immigrant wages, while claiming that undocumented immigrant youth cannot sit in the classroom.

The vigil is part of a state-wide action, Vigils in Defense of Educational Access, around North Carolina, to highlight the growing movement of faith and community groups working to bring humanity and compassion into the public dialogue on education. Supporting the vigil in Asheville are: COLA- Coalition of Latin American Organizations, HOLA of UNCA and AB Tech, CULA -Centro Unido Latino Americano of Marion, Nuestro Centro of Asheville, Jovenes por un Sueno/Youth for a Dream, Center for Participatory Change, WNC Workers Center and the Adelante Education Coalition.  For more information go to www.adelantenc.org.  Now is the time to restore dignity and respect to our schools and all communities.


About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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37 thoughts on “A vigil in defense of educational access

  1. BigAl

    “If you happened to walk or drive past the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville….you probably noticed a sign-toting group gathered there.”

    MX should start at weekly column with this as the title.

  2. dpewen

    Great job protestors … too cold for me but I dig the cause. Everyone is entitled to an education!

  3. George Q. Peabody

    So – you want an American education. Become a citizen, get a job, pay taxes, pay out-of-state tuition until you have been a resident for the required period of time to qualify for in-state tuition and continue with your education. If you are not a legal citizen of the United States, you should not be able to drain this country’s resources. If you insist that getting an education is your ‘right’, then go back to the country where you ARE a citizen and enjoy all the education you can stand.

  4. artart

    It’s about time to stop all this fake immigrant nonsense and call them what they are……people who are in this country illegally… and stop providing incentives and rewards to these people that break the law or their offspring…and do it equally without regard to race or culture or country of origin.

  5. Estefania

    I believe evryone has the right to an Education no matter ethnicity, color, race or legal status. There are many young Latinos who have a good record, and do good in school so why shouldn’t they get the opportunity?. After all it is an EDUCATION not something bad. May I remind that like us Hispanics who migrated here so di the rest. Lets go back into HISTORY and remember all the events. There are very, VERY few Americans Who are true 100% Americans because everyone’s ancestors migrated to the United States and every American has some other kind of race in them. So who has the right to say we are illegal and this is your country. This goes for all who give their critics, do not be so close minded. This is a Multicultural country now we must all learn to get along. :)

  6. travelah

    College is now right along there with air, water, food and shelter as a basic, essential human need.

  7. bill smith

    My concern with educating minorities is they might begin to question inequities.

  8. dpewen

    I do not see that as a problem … I would rather educate all and then make sure there are no inequities

  9. Margaret Williams

    Thanks, everyone, for commenting and staying civil in your responses to each other.

  10. George Q. Peabody

    I find it very interesting that MountainX censors comments that don’t agree with what is evidently their own personal thoughts and/or feelings or what you might otherwise consider “politically correct”.
    I currently am working to finish up a web project that will allow visitors to actually speak their minds, and to not be censored based on my own religious or political beliefs.
    Thank you Margaret.

  11. Margaret Williams

    Personal politics have nothing to do with it. (If this were so for any of the other moderators at Xpress, your previous comment (“So — you want an American education”) wouldn’t have been allowed. Other moderators judged part of your (now deleted) comment as an attack on another commenter (Estefania), whose spelling perhaps wasn’t the best, but she’s nonetheless entitled to voice her position.

    As our Webmaster likes to say, “Criticize the ideas, not the people.”

  12. dpewen

    George, be prepared for a lot of nasty attacks! Moderators are needed because of all the nasty people out there who don’t care what they say because they can be anonymous!

  13. George Q. Peabody

    Ok, here’s the post again without the small paragraph in the middle;

    @Estefania – Just so you understand… You said that “…every American has some other kind of race in them…”. “American” is not a “race”. My nationality is American and it wouldn’t matter my race, color, religion, etc. I am a LEGAL American, born to parents who were LEGAL citizens of this great country. If someone desires to reap any benefit of this country, he or she MUST be a legal citizen. There is NO reason that my, or anyone else’s, tax dollars should be used to educate someone who doesn’t care enough about this land to *FIRST*apply and become citizen and a productive member of our society!
    I would not have a problem with my tax dollars being used to provide free educations for American citizens. However, considering so many posts on the Internet that I read from supposedly educated individuals, I can guarantee you that our standards for getting into an institution of higher learning, staying in that school and subsequently leaving that school with a degree of ANY sort should be raised to a MUCH higher standard. We’re graduating many people from all levels of schools in this country who are nearly illiterate.

  14. Daniel Withrow

    My proposal: any trde agareement with any nation should include a provision that links ease of financial movements to ease of human movements. If we’re going to let business owners compete across borders, let’s let workers compete across borders too. Otherwise we get an ugly situation where businesses can shop for low wages wherever they want, and the police keep workers for shopping for good wages wherever they want. That’s not fair.

    But until we make that measure, let’s think about which immigrants we want. If someone’s made good grades, is established in our community, wants to live in our country, and wants to go to college, isn’t that exactly the sort of person we want to join our nation? Rather than criticizing them for their parents’ choices, I’d think we’d want to change the laws to expedite their citizenship. What’s the downside?

  15. john

    I agree with George. If you aren’t here legally, you have entered into the USA illegally and are partaking of the benefits paid for by tax-paying citizens. That is called theft and you are a criminal. Go home. Fix your own country.

  16. bill smith

    [i]I would rather educate all and then make sure there are no inequities [/i]

    But then who would take the low paying jobs?

  17. BigAl

    “If someone’s made good grades, is established in our community, wants to live in our country, and wants to go to college, isn’t that exactly the sort of person we want to join our nation?”

    No, it is not. We want people who respect and obey the law and who pay their taxes in exchange for education and other benefits of citizenship, not criminals who break the law to sneak in, earn tax-free income, then have the audacity to demand benefits that they deliberately avoided paying for.

    Good grades and good behavior are no substitute for good character, which cannot be reconciled with dishonesty, greed and theft.

    Illegal immigrants are criminals and should be jailed, then deported.

    Americans who help them should be punished the same as any other co-conspirator in a crime.

  18. chops

    It surprises me how privileged and oppressive these statements sound. Have we not learned to love? Should not our advantaged nation work to help the disadvantaged – regardless of nationality?

    “stop providing incentives and rewards to these people”

    “NO reason that my, or anyone else’s, tax dollars should be used to educate someone who doesn’t care”

    “let’s think about which immigrants we want”

    “you have entered into the USA illegally and are partaking of the benefits paid for by tax-paying citizens”

    “Illegal immigrants are criminals and should be jailed, then deported”

  19. chops

    We shouldn’t be so greedy and hateful just because someone is different.

    We’re all the same people, is what I’m saying.

    We’ve got to Love to help. =)

    And… of all the gifts that we could give, education seems like the best “hand-up”.

  20. travelah

    No, I’ don’t gotta love to pay out the nose for people who are not citizens. For that matter, I don’t gotta love paying out the nose for anybody. If somebody wants to come into the country legally, get a job and work themselves up to an improved economic position, I’m all for it. Don’t come here expecting the Kumbaya set to steal from the taxpayers to give you a free ride.

  21. George Q. Peabody

    @chops: If a group of people work and pay into the ‘system’, some are going to receive more than others – and that’s alright, because everyone contributed, albeit not everyone contributed the same. YOU or I could be the one who either receives more OR the one who contributes more. If you need it and we’ve all dropped a few pennies in the pot then I’m good with it.
    Now, while you’re defending one set of lawbreakers let’s look at this a little differently. What if the drug dealer/user (another lawbreaker but a fellow human just the same) just down your street doesn’t have the cash to purchase the drugs that he’s already collected from another user for? There is a strong likelihood that someone’s going to be injured or worse over this deal if he can’t come through? Wait, there’s a donation jar sitting on that store counter with enough to cover it and still a few bucks for a 6-pack. Can this guy have that money? After all, he’s just a fellow human in need, isn’t he, and shouldn’t we love him and turn the other cheek?
    I don’t hate him for being in that position and being a lawbreaker but does that mean I should give him money or turn the other cheek when he just takes what he wants or needs?
    Back to the matter at hand… our ‘friends who are sneaking in should take the proper route and take the necessary steps to become citizens – http://uscitizenshiptestguide.com/text/apply.html
    Approximately 6 months down the road, IF they meet all the QUALIFICATIONS, then we won’t be having this discussion.

  22. George Q. Peabody

    @chops: By the way, what do you do for a living? It’s interesting how you took the quotes you used out of context. Add a few words from the original posts and the meaning can be considerably different. Lawyer? Politician?

    @MountainX: This IS NOT an attack on anyone…

  23. Daniel Withrow

    BigAl, note that we’re talking about people who came here as children, brought by their parents. When they were established in their community, they had no choice in where they lived. Are you suggesting that if a law were passed today banishing you from the United States for something your parents did, you would pack up and leave your community behind?

    Even if you would, it would be a terribly foolish law. I’m suggesting that we change the law such that the children who are brought here without having a say-so aren’t punished for any sins of their parents: instead, we evaluate them as individuals, and we strongly facilitate their citizenship.

    If we changed the law in this regard, they wouldn’t be scofflaws.

    What’s the advantage to not making this change in the law?

  24. john

    We are a nation of laws, not of feel-good PC feelings. Supporting the rule of law and requesting that others do the same is neither privileged, oppressive, greedy or hateful–or lacking in love. That’s a twisted, naive misinterpretation. How about this: someone breaks into in your home eats your food, steals your clothes, spends your money. You come home and decide to love that person. Good for you. But to refuse to have good boundaries and allow the theft and the thief to continue is beyond stupid. Letting someone run over you is neither just, nor loving nor kind to you and your family. And you will soon have no food, no money and no home.

  25. loco

    I became a US citizen as a young adult, and state funds then helped to pay for my college education. So what?

    If I now became a citizen of some other country, then what’s the difference? It’s just a piece of paper.

    The world is a beter place with educated people. I am grateful for my education. Does it matter if I am Canadian? By the way, it’s impossible to live in the U.S. and never pay U.S. tax (directly or indirectly). Also, why should that matter. Wouldn’t it be nice to buy education for the whole world?

  26. George Q. Peabody

    John – well said.
    Loco – You’re loco! Just kidding. The difference is that you took the proper steps and became a citizen of this county. To do so, you pledged allegiance to this country and swore to adhere to the laws of this nation and to hold allegiance to no other nation. If you feel that it’s “just a piece of paper”, I’m sorry – it is not. How about asking our men and women who fight for YOUR rights in the country if it’s “just a piece of paper”.
    There is NO doubt and no disputing that the world is, or would be, a better place IF it had better-educated people.
    And paying a sales tax while living in the U.S. is nowhere near the same as paying as income tax. If you’re not a legal citizen and you work for cash while sending a large portion of that back to the country that you ARE a citizen of and don’t pay into Social Security and pay income tax – all the while consuming THIS country’s resources – then you (anyone) are a burden on society. And consuming resources can include things you may not even consider such as driving on roads that tax dollars pay for building and repairing, schools…
    What if everyone in the United States suddenly decided that they didn’t HAVE to pay in any longer BUT still insisted that they were entitled to benefits? There would be NO benefits and the U.S. would likely cease to exist.

  27. BigAl

    I agree that children of illegal immigrants should not be punished for their parents’ crimes. The children should also not be rewarded for those same crimes. State-funded education is a right, privelage and benefit of citizenship. Illegal immigrants obtaind their childrens’ citizenship and the accompanying rights illegally and our policy of treating these children the same as those born to legal citizens is wrong.

    If immigrants really cared about their children as much as they and their co-conspirators claim, they would enter the country legally and earn citizenship the right way.

    I am astounded that a graduate-educated and full-time employed nurse from Poland is still waiting after 7+ years for a chance to earn citizenship while thousands of Latin American children will be granted a lifetime of privelages as the result of their parents’ criminal activity.

  28. chops

    That’s why we are trying to change this law, john.

    I suppose it is the resistance to civil rights reform that appears oppressive to me.

  29. chops

    George, I’m not ignoring you, I just can’t figure out if there’s any question there that isn’t already answered, or just rhetorical, or irrelevant.

    loco, you’re absolutely right, but that little pice of paper can mean the difference between due process and risk of criminal prosecution.

  30. john

    Breaking into the United States illegally, then having children and expecting that you and they will be treated as upstanding citizens and receive lots of bennies–because you cut in front of the line and got ahead of those immigrants doing it fairly and legally isn’t a matter of civil rights. It’s a matter of theft, criminality and national security. Contrary to liberal ideology, these illegal immigrants are not ‘victims’ of ‘oppression’–they are perpetrators. And those who support the rule of law are not bigots. No one asked illegals to come here, it was their personal decision and they are in our house without our invitation or our permission. If it’s a matter of civil rights, the rights being overrun and lost are those of American citizens and of immigrants in this country Legally. If you are here illegally and you haven’t committed a crime, the Civil Right you have is to leave this country and go home. If you want to immigrate here, do so legally.

  31. bill smith

    @Chops–So you feel that people should be able to enter the country illegally, and this should be treated as ‘no big deal’? Perhaps we should eliminate border restrictions entirely and just let anyone and everyone immigrate?

  32. Big Al

    john wrote “If you are here illegally and you haven’t committed a crime…”

    If you are here illegally, you HAVE committed a crime.

  33. Daniel Withrow

    John, the children didn’t come here by personal decision, that’s the point. Granting that their parents acted illegally by placing them in our community, these children have still grown up in our community, and it’s now their community. Punish the parents if you’d like, because the parents did make the decision to act illegally. But the children made no such decision. And tearing them from their community is a terrible result of our current laws; we should change it.

    Bill, actually, I think that border restrictions on humans should reflect border restrictions on money. If we allow a free flow of capital from one country to another in order to maximize productivity and trade, it only make sense to allow a free flow of labor. To do otherwise is to unfairly advantage businesses over workers.

  34. john

    Correct, Al. I meant ‘in addition too..’

    Daniel, I believe we have a clear difference in philosophy. Parents have the foundational, basic responsibility for their children’s welfare- not you, not I, not the government. If a child has to be relocated to the country of their parent’s origin along with their parents because these parents entered our nation illegally, that is not ‘punishment’, nor is it ‘unfair.’ That is the Law. It has nothing to do with trying to insist that the child is a victim of an oppressive system or that they shouldn’t have to lose their community. If they are here illegally, it is not truly ‘their’ community. The parents knew our laws when they came here and willingly chose to break them. They placed their children and any future children in jeopardy AT THAT POINT. Actions have consequences.

    As a child, I moved frequently because my father was in the military. I too, had to build new community and friends more than a few times, both overseas and in the States. That was not ‘punishment,’ I was not a ‘victim’, nor was it unfair. Was it difficult at times? Yes. Rewarding? You bet. The challenge made me a better, stronger person.

    Finally, as to your last comment– world history is rife with examples of nations who ceased to adequately protect their borders and are now gone or fallen. Clear limits and boundaries are necessary for healthy interactions between individuals, parents and children, citizens and government and between nations. I imagine you have seen the truth of this in your own life.

  35. bill smith

    Daniel : “Bill, actually, I think that border restrictions on humans should reflect border restrictions on money. If we allow a free flow of capital from one country to another in order to maximize productivity and trade, it only make sense to allow a free flow of labor. To do otherwise is to unfairly advantage businesses over workers. ”

    Seems reasonable. But then in a situation like the US’s relationship with Mexico, how does one address the financial discrepancy? How do we pay for services and infrastructure being used by those who only participate in the ‘system’\ at the consumer level?

  36. Daniel Withrow

    Bill, the way to address this seems simple to me: we address it for workers exactly as we address it for business owners. Businesses who move into an area pay applicable local taxes to cover the burden they add to infrastructure. Workers who move to an area should do the same.

    That is, change the law such that workers may move freely. If a guy from Mexico wants to come work here in Asheville, he’s free to do so; he’ll file income tax, pay sales tax, pay property tax, etc.

    John, you say “history is rife with examples of nations who ceased to adequately protect their borders and are now gone or fallen.” Are you suggesting that there are examples of nations who have fallen because they allowed peaceful immigration? Although I’m aware of similar arguments that were put forward in the past, I’m unaware of any specific nations whose fall can credibly be linked to their policy of open peaceful immigration. What examples did you have in mind?

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