As a human being

Over the past three days, an extremist Republican wedge appears to have been driven into the heart and soul of the Old North State. In response to the (gasp) horror of allowing children of illegal immigrants to attend community colleges in North Carolina, we have witnessed a stunning level of political expediency among five of the six people who consider themselves worthy of holding our state's highest elected office - plus the one already holding it.

The debacle started predictably enough with the two richest Republican candidates, Fred Smith and Bill Graham. Smith has made his fortunes on the backs of working class people who have shoveled his dirt and poured his concrete with no need for education whatsoever. Graham's future is even more tightly tied to sustaining ignorance among a permanent underclass that will buy his never-ending stream of anti-government rhetoric. There's no surprise with these two, none at all.

Then Bob Orr joined the party, quickly followed by Richard Moore, and this morning by Beverly Perdue. Along the way, Governor Mike Easley himself joined the debate, sort of, saying he wouldn't comment on the policy.

Each of these visionary leaders likes to preface his or her public comments with some credentialing, just in case we're wondering why we should listen to what they say. For Smith, it's always "as a business man (not a politician, mind you)." For Perdue, it's often "as a former educator." And this time Moore trotted out "as a former prosecutor" to make sure we know he's a law-n-order kind of guy.


In response to a comment I made Under the Dome about Orr's jumping on the anti-immigrant bandwagon, the former Supreme Court Justice sent me a note explaining his position. It was more of what he had already said. Here's what I wrote back:

I'm certainly not going to go toe-to-toe with you on legal issues, but you're trying to make something appear to be all-or-nothing when that's clearly not the case.

Granting access to some services is not equivalent to granting access to all services, and responsible leaders should be in the business of drawing such distinctions. To my knowledge, judges make those kinds of distinctions every day. As do colleges, police officers, prosecutors, and everybody else responsible for being a steward of the public good. It's an easy and pat answer to respond to this (immigration) issue the way Graham, Smith and Moore did. And I won't be surprised to see Perdue pile on as well. But that doesn't mean it's the right answer.

If anyone could have threaded the needle on this, you could have. So I have to conclude that you really believe that a 17-year-old child of an illegal parent should be denied the right to pay out-of-state tuition to attend community college. Which is why I've adjusted my views. It would be impossible for me to consider a person who holds that opinion to be a "nice guy."


I understand this is a hot-button issue. I understand that the anti-government extremists out-maneuvered everyone else in rushing to drive the wedge. I understand that once Moore said "screw the illegals" that Perdue had virtually no room to take a more thoughtful position. In today's sound-bite environment, you're either for the rule of law, or you're against it.

For the two Democrats, this campaign has already shifted into risk-management mode. Assuming the polls haven't changed much, Perdue has a small lead and can ill-afford a political misstep. The same with Moore. Either of them taking a thoughtful, nuanced position on this issue would be like throwing red meat to the rabid right-wing.


Ironically, the only person with any sense on this issue is Mike Munger, who had this to say here at BlueNC yesterday.

I have a metal sign on my wall. It hung on a wall inside a barn in eastern NC for more than 80 years (it's from the 1920s, in other words). I bought it at an auction, and had it framed, because it captures the libertarian solution to a whole lot of problems, including the very real one raised in the post above.

The little metal sign says, Help the President with Law Enforcement. Repeal the 18th Amendment. For Prosperity.

The coalition that kept Prohibition in place is referred to, in Poli Sci circles, as the "Baptists and Bootleggers" coalition. The Baptists for moral reasons, and Bootleggers for economic reasons, wanted the state to crack down on legal liquor sales. Baptists got their morality, and the bootleggers got a protected monopoly.

I agree with Graig, completely. But the solution is not, or is not ONLY, a policy that welcomes illegals to schools. Sure, that's the right thing to do. The real solution would be new little metal signs:

Help the President with Law Enforcement. Make Immigration Legal, for Law-Abiding Hard-Working Foreigners. For Prosperity.

Because here's the thing: The Baptist and Bootlegger coalition has come back. Lou Dobbs and xenophobic nativist elements of our population want to pull the ladder up. "I've got mine! Screw you!" So they play the moralistic public loudmouth role.

And the Bootleggers? Well, those are the giant ag corporations, and the meat-packers, and all the other companies that depend on KEEPING immigration illegal so they can underpay, abuse, and nearly enslave immigrants. That's the economic part.

So, my point is that allowing illegals in schools is a baby step. Let's make them legal, and we'll solve all sorts of problems that DERIVE from the underlying irrationality of our immigration policy.


Would it have been impossible for one of the Democrats say this?

As a human being, I understand that this is a hard issue. But simple-minded answers do a disservice to our colleges, our citizens, and people who are trapped in the cycle of poverty that leads to illegal immigration in the first place.

I trust our community colleges and their leaders to know how to manage this situation. They're in the business of reviewing prospective students all the time. I think they should have the discretion to judge all applicants on a case by case basis. Just because someone is a citizen doesn't automatically qualify them for acceptance. And just because someone happens to be the teenaged child of parents who are in the US illegally shouldn't automatically disqualify them either.


Bravo A.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.


I know I'm on the losing side of this issue, but it breaks my heart - and my spirit - to realize we're in an environment in which political expediency trumps compassion and judgment at almost every turn.

double bravo!

This is excellent commentary, and in my opinion cause to reflect on what it means to be a progressive, and/ or progressive Democrat....Bottom line for me, the Democratic party stands for the little guy, the least powerful members of society, and fights for all the people.
It's one thing to claim that you stand for "the people", but the real test is addressing situations just like this by having the courage to act on your values.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

340 out of 200,000 are illegal residents

And they're paying out of state tuition - more than twice what residents pay, and more than the cost of their education. In other words, they're subsidizing residents. It's pretty hard to make the case that they're overwhelming anything.

The average age in all community colleges this year was 28.

More than 23,000 students were 18 or younger.

You can find more facts here.

Good job A

This issue is most troubling to me as it reveals base instincts. Like has been done to gays in previous election cycles. Identify a small group with no voice and vilify them for political advantage. Keep distracting us from issues that warrant everyones attention. The right thing to do can't be discussed for fear of looking soft on law and order. In the 60s you could have put integration on a ballot and got the initiative defeated. But would that have been the right thing to do? We're a better country than that.

The immigration issue is an issue. But, it isn't a crisis. If you want to get worked up over a crisis, get worked up over the environment. THAT'S a crisis.


If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.

Harriet Tubman (1822 – 1913)

Thank, John

You've put your finger on why this troubles me so much as well. It really does reveal what's behind the veneer.

You're right

It sucks, but looks like our two candidates don't really get how this issue works. Sure, there's a great deal of anti-immigrant sentiment in NC, even in the Democratic party, but polling on this issue tends to demonstrate that people can get behind sensible ideas.

You just have to know how to talk about it. Emphasizing the word "illegal", as Moore and Perdue both did, is buying into a pretty stupid frame. If you ask people whether they believe that people in NC ought to be able to go to community college to make a better life for themselves, I'm sure they'd be more responsive. By and large, most people get that undocumented immigrants aren't all criminals - but we have to work hard to knock down the b.s.

The average age of

The average age of community college students is around 30 years.

They are not targeting children.

Just because the current average age of community college students is older than graduating high schoolers, it doesn't mean that young people won't be significantly affected. Many bright immigrant students are now growing up in NC, graduating from NC high schools, and then finding they are effectively barred from attending college. The cost of university education is prohibitive for undocumented students who are treated as "out-of-staters" and met with a much higher hurdle for competitive admission as "out of state" students. Allowing them to attend community colleges as "out-of-state" students allows them to get an education at a rate that is still a bargain while not putting any additional strain on the system.

It's also a fairly common practice now for students to complete up to two years of credits at community colleges before transferring to universities to minimize education debt.

Easley's Take

From Under the Dome:

In an interview with Jack Betts of the Charlotte Observer, he said it's in the state's interest to allow them to attend if they qualify and pay out-of-state tuition rates.

"The people we are talking about were brought here as babies and young children through no fault of their own," he told Betts. "They distinguished themselves throughout our K-12 (public school) system. Now, I’m not willing to grind my heel in their faces and slam the door on them."

I can't remember the last time I was this proud of Mike Easley.

There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracts. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. - Robert F. Kennedy

There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. - Robert F. Kennedy


Good for Easley!
Funny thing, Huckabee gave this same answer in the Republican debates the other night and actually was applauded by the audience...

Double yeah!

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I understand that once Moore said "screw the illegals" that Perdue had virtually no room to take a more thoughtful position.

Bull, bull, bull.

If Perdue can't or doesn't take a thoughtful position it's because she doesn't have what it takes - NOT because Moore came out first with his position. If she's afraid of a sound bite, then I truly don't want her as Governor. Perdue's lack of a thoughtful position is Beverly Perdue's responsibility, not Richard Moore's. She had a chance to distinguish herself and she CHOSE to NOT distinguish herself.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion

I don't know if Perdue would have taken a more thoughtful position in any case, no matter what Moore might have said. That's just my opinion of how the game is unfolding.

So I guess you're saying that neither of them has what it takes?

I'm 'bout ready to chuck them both.....

seriously. Got an email from Moore's camp touting a civitas poll. Can't remember hitting the delete button so fast in years. I am truly disgusted with the two of them. I would still push the button for Moore, but would feel sick doing so. I'm fed up. I intended to attempt some supportive posts for him. Heh.

When you say Perdue had no choice, you're taking away her power. Don't take away her power. She had a choice. I would rather say she chose poorly than to say she had no power to make her own choice.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

She did have a choice

Point taken. And the choice she made doesn't sit well with me.

I agree with you both.

I'm not happy with the response from either of these candidates.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Make it 4


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

A happy little quad

we add any more to our group and I can't call us little. :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

This is what

Happens when a campaigns become based on consulants right now I am not sure what either candidate really believes either I am voting for Purdue but I am not sure I am doing the right thing.

Yeah - we can.

But it doesn't look like any of them are running for the Democratic nomination this year.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Get a LG candidate to step up

We got four good LG candidates, lets get one to skip a grade.

"jump in where you can and hang on"
Briscoe Darling to Sheriff Andy

So exactly which ones are the Dems?

This exactly why I worked my butt off this summer getting progressive candidates elected (and I succeeded with Raleigh's new city council). I want candidates who actually believe in something, not just spout what their consultants tell them to spout. If Moore and Purdue is the best we can do, I'm looking for a third option.

This is not leadership, folks. It's phony, it sucks and I am absolutely sick of it! Advice for Moore and Purdue: put down your poll results, leave your consultants to their crack pipes and get yourselves some friggin' principles! If you can't do that, you don't deserve my vote and you will certainly not get it. Arrgh!

Capital Progressives

I can't believe I'm saying this

But I am . . .

Just remember. The difference between a Richard Moore or a Beverly Perdue and a Fred Smith or Billy Bob is LIGHT YEARS.

I'm voting for whichever one wins the primary. No ifs, ands or buts.


Yeah, Smith or Orr would be bad news. But Pete MacDowell called it: they're both "ho-hum party insiders."

Why can't we get Dem candidates who are more inspiring? Why do we always get "Republican-light?"

Why am I always voting against someone instead of voting for someone?
Capital Progressives

I fear these times are going to try more than our souls...

The amazing confluence of the devaluation of our currency, our huge debt and trade deficits, the bankruptcy crisis and a looming recession, all courtesy of our feckless Congress and a corrupt Administration, are going to do us a lot of damage. There's more...but I'm tired.

You're right...some choices are not easy but necessary. If the state Republican candi-duds are anywhere near as bad as the Repub Presidential candidates, voting for them would be like voting for a reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler.

Stan Bozarth

I agree

either moore or perdue is light-years ahead of the any of the GOP candidates and i will work for whoever gets nominated. Call me a yellow-dog Democrat!

but i still wish we had other Dem choices.

Thanks to all of you

I was tearing my hair out over the insanity coming from the Democratic candidates for governor and hoping I'd find signs of intelligent life here at BlueNC--and of course I did. Thanks for your thoughtful posts on the community college/immigration issue.

It's the end of a long week but I will try to contribute more thoughts on this topic soon.

I expect Democrats to find a way to champion justice even on this complex, hot-button issue (last time I checked, justice was non-negotiable) and I am very unimpressed with all of the gubernatorial candiates so far.

I know I am getting into this one late, since I have been gone

all weekend. I am somewhat familiar with this issue and the personalities involved. I have not read all the posts under this heading, so pardon me if I repeat a question already asked and answered.

That being said, my question for A is as follows:

In your post you said that...

in today's sound-bite environment, you're either for the rule of law, or you're against it.

I may be showing rank ignorance, but does it really matter whether a candidate says they are for or against the rule of law? I mean that in a philosophical sense. Really, how many candidates are going to state they are not for the rule of law, especially in an election cycle. That test is too subjective.

What is needed is an objective way to evaluate a candidate's opinions. I can think of no better way than to examine they stands they have taken and votes they have cast in the past. While a candidate may say they are for the rule of law, their actions may indicate otherwise. It is the classic struggle between orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

Fortunately for N.C. citizens, in the 2008 governor's race four of the five candidates have public voting/opinion records (Graham has the enviable position of being able to say anything he wants and being somewhat believable since there is nothing on official record to disprove his claims; however, this is also his greatest weakness) that can be compared to what they say. To use the illegal immigrant/community college issue as an example, I seriously doubt that Perdue, and likely Moore, would in practice deny the children of illegal immigrants the chance to attend community college; in fact, I believe they will follow Hunt's line-of-thought and allow them to attend.

We've missed you!

I believe they will follow Hunt's line-of-thought and allow them to attend.

I think you meant Easley, though. I know all Democratic governors look alike, but still.


Thanks, it's good to be back.

Though I wasn't gone that long. I enjoy the debate here, and the opportunity to weigh in on issues. Too many other sites don't allow that privilege.

Actually, I was referring to Hunt. Here is a link to an article from the W-S Journal outlining my reference. Hunt Renews Call to Give Immigrants Tuition Help

And yes, perhaps they all may look alike. After all, they are all moderate white males from the Wilson/Rocky Mount area. At least in recent memory.

Just for the record

The guy I'm working for right now disagrees with the major party Gov candidates on this one. And I'm not just saying that, he answered a question about it yesterday ...

Have the LG and congressional candidates/incumbents told us their stances on this? I've been out of the loop and the state.

1 Thessalonians 5:21: But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks