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NC community college will no longer admit illegal immigrants

By ESTES THOMPSON
Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ North Carolina’s community college system said Tuesday it will no longer admit illegal immigrants into degree programs, following the advice of the state Attorney General’s Office.

Last year, the system said it would enroll illegal immigrants who are 18 years old and high school graduates at all of its 58 campuses. While the change was supported by Gov. Mike Easley, it provoked heavy criticism ó especially from the leading candidates running to replace the outgoing governor.

The system later asked North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper for guidance on whether the admissions policy was legal under federal law.

Last week, Cooper’s office suggested the system drop the admissions policy, although federal immigration officials have said no school is required to check immigration status.

“We asked the Attorney General’s Office for clarification of our present policy and will abide by their advice,” system President R. Scott Ralls said in a statement. “We will continue to be a primary source of economic advancement for the state by providing world-class education and work force training to every student eligible to enroll.”

The change adopted last year changed a 2004 community college policy that left the admissions decision to individual campuses.

The system’s new policy will not affect high school students taking any community college classes, or adults in non-college level courses. Ralls also said the 112 illegal immigrants who enrolled in degree classes during the 2006-2007 academic year will be allowed to continue their studies.

In offering his advice to the community college, Cooper called on federal officials to provide clarity on what is legal.

“We have accepted the Attorney General’s offer to seek federal clarification of this issue, and they are pursuing that information” Ralls said. “Until we receive further clarification, we will no longer admit individuals classified as illegal or undocumented immigrants into curriculum degree programs.”

But federal immigration officials said last week there is no law prohibiting the state from educating illegal immigrants at public colleges and universities.

“The Department of Homeland Security does not require any school to determine a student’s status,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear what further information Cooper’s office is seeking from federal authorities.

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