The Follies of anti-immigrant zealots

The Follies of anti-immigrant zealots

- in Fitzsimon File

A wise decision and the predictable reaction

The Board of Community Colleges voted almost unanimously Friday to allow undocumented students to attend community colleges if they pay out-of-state tuition.  Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton voted against it, following the disturbing lead of Governor Beverly Perdue by pandering to the misleading polls and political consultants.

Good for the board for finally making the right call and allowing kids who have excelled in North Carolina schools to continue their education. 

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger issued a statement blasting Perdue for not doing more to stop it and calling the vote a slap in the face of legal North Carolina residents.  Yea, that really hurt us all, allowing a handful of kids who can somehow pay $7,000 a year to attend a community college with the 270,000 other students enrolled.

But for many zealots, this issue is not about the facts or the cost or education at all. It is about fear and anger, just like the outbursts at health care meetings and in the halls of Congress.  People are angry and frustrated and the demagogues, as they always do, are trying to use that frustration for political gain.

They rail everyday against undocumented workers and undocumented kids, but almost always seem to leave out the businesses that hire them.  A recent letter to the editor published in the Lexington Dispatch is sadly typical.

The writer relates several anecdotes about “illegals,” including one in which he says that his son was an electrician in Myrtle Beach when the company laid everybody off and hired undocumented immigrants, who he thinks are the problem of course.

In the unlikely event that the story is true, it’s telling that the writer expresses no anger or animosity toward the company that he alleges broke the law by hiring undocumented workers.  Nothing at all is said about the company, but that’s generally par for the course in the debate.

All the blame is assigned to the people who come here to work hard and make a better life for their family and none to the corporations that illegally profit from the cheap labor with no virtually no risk of being prosecuted or thrown in jail.

The workers live in fear and they are jailed and then deported if they are caught. The companies who break the law have little to worry about. They just hire more workers. 

If the folks on the Right were serious in their rants against undocumented immigrants they would focus their attention on the industries that hire them instead of trying to keep kids out of college.

Most of the anti-immigration zealots never target corporate American of course. That’s too risky and that’s where a lot of their money and support comes from.

Somebody needs to demand that corporate America stop sitting out the immigration debate and explain what is at stake and why it makes sense to fully integrate the 12 million undocumented people who are here into our society in a rational way.

Scoring political points by demonizing a few kids who want to better themselves is offensive and has nothing to do with the problem or the solution.  The Board of Community Colleges deserves credit for doing the right thing, but the fact that it took so long and remains controversial is troubling evidence of just how off base the immigration debate remains.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.