More demagoguery and shady numbers

More demagoguery and shady numbers

- in Fitzsimon File

The folks at the Pope Civitas Institute can’t seem to leave bad enough alone and keep coming up with new ways to keep anti-immigrant sentiment at a fever pitch to help their favorite politicians demagogue the issue.

The Civitasers are again blasting officials with the state’s community college system for insisting on allowing children who have succeeded in public schools in North Carolina to attend a community college regardless of their immigration status if they can afford the out of state tuition of  $7,400 a year,  more than it costs the state to educate a student.

Community college officials say 340 undocumented immigrants are currently enrolled and paying out of state tuition. That is less than one tenth of one percent of the system’s 270,000 students.

The pesky facts that undocumented students are actually subsidizing the community college system, not the other way around, and that so few of the students can actually afford the higher tuition did not deter the policy demagogues who issued new propaganda Tuesday afternoon that stretches the truth beyond all recognition.

The new anti-immigrant talking points includ assertions based on numbers plucked out of thin air, a bizarre interpretation of federal law, and claims that it is all part of a larger, hidden policy agenda that the Civitasers then go on to rail against too.

The release questions the 340 number and wonders not only how community college officials came up with it, but why they haven’t reported the undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

Officials with the Community College system say that students who don’t provide documentation that they are citizens of North Carolina are charged out of state tuition. That’s where the number comes from.

There is no nefarious conspiracy. The UNC system already has that same policy in effect, that undocumented students can attend if they pay out of state tuition.

The Civitasers question the 340 figure by estimating that 10,000 noncitizen students are undergraduates in public higher education and that the vast majority of them are receiving in state tuition at community colleges.

It is not clear where that number comes from. The release says it is based on U.S. Census Data, but the folks at the U.S. Census Bureau couldn’t figure it out either when contacted. Apparently the reports author just assumes the number is accurate and says in the report that he adjusts for age.

The average age of community college students is close to 30, so the demographics are at best confusing. And notice the term noncitizen. The folks at Civitas usually like to refer to undocumented immigrants as aliens or illegals.

Not this time, which may be because they are counting foreign students here with visas or other documentation in the total to make the numbers serve their rhetorical purposes. The greater number allows them to make all sorts of allegations about cost, multiplying 10,000 students by the price of an education to come up with the absurd total that undocumented students cost the state $36 million.

That’s ridiculousof course, but even that is out of a General Fund budget of more than $20 billion, not much to provide education to kids who were brought here by their parents and have spent most of their life in North Carolina, learning our language and culture, and in many case working and paying taxes at the same time.

The Civitasers also want to turn community college officials into immigration police when they are simply following an open door policy similar to ones in most other states. If undocumented immigrant can afford out of state tuition at public institutions, they can attend.  It is not very complicated.

The absurdity of this latest appeal to our worst instincts makes it clearer than ever that the folks at Civitas are not worried about money or the community college system. They are obsessed with keeping immigration front and center in this years political debate, no matter how much they have to distort the facts or how many teenagers they have hurt in the process.