18 July 2010

Illegal Immigrants in the Tar Heel State

Last spring I had an overt, died in the wool, white supremacist in my class on Migration in World History. One day he went on one of his rants about how awful illegal immigrants were because they were causing our community college system to collapse by crowding into classes where they couldn't speak English. I told him I thought that was nonsense and I was in a position to know, being a professor within the higher education field. Students who get into community colleges speak English, and there are not that many of them. How could the people accused of being willing to work for sub-American wages be able to send their children to schools charging out of state tuition rates, as North Carolina does. He didn't buy it.

Providentially when I got home that night I found in the local paper this article by Scott Mooneyham (a columnist who covers state politics) which provided me with the hard numbers to make the point I wanted to make. So the next class I asked my class a few questions.

1. How many students go to NC community colleges?
Answer: about 300,000. Most of the students thought many times more.

2. What percentage of these are illegal residents?
Answer: community college officials say that in 2008 it was 112 students, which is considerably less than 1%. Actually it's about .00038. Most students thought it was as high as 20% and several thought as high as 50% (no, I don't know what planet they live on either).

3. How many times the instate tuition rate do out-of-state students pay?
Answer: It varies a bit, but Mooneyham gives the figure for out-of-state tuition as $7,700 per year. That seems to be about 5 times as much. Students were all over the map on this one, though one or two out-of-state students got it right.

What I didn't ask them, but should have, was how much this costs the state of North Carolina to educate this horde of illegals in community colleges.

Answer: it doesn't - in 2008 the state made about $185,000 off of them. Also, since the state requires that they have graduated from an American high school, it is difficult to believe very many of those 112 were unable to speak English. Most of the ones I know personally speak English exactly like the locals, sadly. As to how overcrowded this makes our community colleges? Not at all. They go to the back of the line and are only admitted if space is then available.

just my luck, the day I did all this the class white supremacist was absent. Oh well.


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At 18 July, 2010 22:44, Anonymous Maire said...

Who needs facts when you have feelings? Fox(x) told me I'm in danger, so I feel threatened. You can't argue with how I feel.


At 19 July, 2010 11:32, Blogger Clemens said...

As the saying goes, "you are entitled to your own opinion just not your own facts." Or as I tell my class, "opinions are like belly buttons: everyone has one. In a history class we are not interested in opinions, but opinions supported by facts." This seems a step too far for many of them.

You can construct a good argument against illegal immigration (it's illegal for one thing) but you shouldn't rely on nonsense made up by fools.

"garbage in, garbage out."

I think HAL said that.

At 19 July, 2010 19:52, Anonymous The Old Man said...

Does anyone realize that Col. Travis (the commander of the Alamo) was a lawyer for "illegal immigrants" trying to get title to land that they wanted in their new county? Oh, wait a minute they were white Europeans from the United States that had immigrated into Mexico after it was closed off.

It is also quite ironic that the only male to survive at the Alamo was Col. Travis black "servant", since one of Travis' main points of contention with the Mexican government was that they had outlawed slavery.

At 20 July, 2010 11:17, Blogger Clemens said...

The reason the Mexicans didn't shoot the slave was because he was a slave, and that was illegal in benighted Mexico. One of the reasons the brave Texicans were fighting.

The defenders of the Alamo fought under the Mexican flag, since they claimed they were 'Mexicans' rebelling against a tyrannical gov't led by a dictator.Some of the defenders were Tejanos, Spanish speaking Texans. Most of them lived to regret it.

The last recorded words from the defenders were spoken by Travis, in Spanish: "No rendirse muchachos!" Don't surrender boys!

All of this is from memory, so I could be wrong.

At 20 July, 2010 20:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He died in the wool? ;-)

I'm curious: does the author of the study realize that many illegal immigrants have false documents, which allow them to pass as legal residents?

As for paying for it: there are these things called student loans, which are often enough not repaid.

Not that this in any way gets to 20% or even 50% of the population. I honestly don't remember too many Latinos at NC State, and certainly not many here. Most of the Spanish speakers here that I've met are, in fact, from Spain.

But what would I know? I'm a mathematician.


At 22 July, 2010 14:41, Blogger Clemens said...

It was purple wool a la Theodora.

"Many" as in what proportion? And with false papers and a poor commend of English they get to work at jobs that make it easy to pay $7,500 a year for the splendid two year education at Wilkes Community College?

Around here the only big employer of Hispanics is the local chicken factory. Lately they have been firing people whose papers aren't in order. Odd, how they never felt the need to do that while Repubs controlled the Fed Govt, but they do now.

The idea that anyone working the line at Tyson's chicken factory is going to make enough money to afford an education like that is a bit odd. I've talked to Anglos who have worked there and they will never go back - it doesn't pay enough for one thing (working conditions and safety another).

Yes, I suppose "often enough" people also get student loans they don't pay back but it is not a problem peculiar to illegal immigrants flooding our school system. Often enough doctors rip off the government for millions in Medicare fraud and often enough people cheat on their taxes. I am not sure what your point is.
Illegal immigrants are dishonest? More than, say doctors, or tax payers? Or politicians?

Aside from that, regular tuition (which just went up again here to cover the fact that the state is covering less) is getting harder and harder to pay if some of my students are correct. Student loans are not quite the solution some people think.

But, I'm just a medieval historian, stuck trying to figure out the fiscal policy of the 14th century Byzantine gov't. They had a serious problem: the elites refused to pay taxes and the Church refused to help fund the wars.

At 23 July, 2010 00:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose "often enough" people also get student loans they don't pay back…

At my former institution, a small college in a different region of North Carolina that shall go unnamed, several professors stated that it was precisely why many students enrolled: not for an education, but in order to make money off student loans. Before you dismiss this as uninformed or ideologically motivated, these were not conservatives, and they had been there a long time. Nor did they state these things in secret; they stated them openly during a faculty meeting, to the president and administration, and no one contradicted them.

Of course, this was a small, private college. I suppose things might be more open and honest at a large, public university like the ones where you and (now) I work. But I have been told that this phenomenon is one reason my university requests that faculty report students who don't attend: some federal financial aid depends on attendance, in order to prevent fraud. There are students who attend long enough to get the money, then disappear.

Notice that I nowhere said, "immigrants" commit fraud. I said, "students". The point is that it is possible, that there is a history of it, and because of this we are asked to follow certain procedures to watch out for it.

Maybe all these people are lying to me, but that would be weird for people who aren't anti-immigrant or anti-poor.

…but it is not a problem peculiar to illegal immigrants flooding our school system.

I repeat: I didn't claim it was. I was merely pointing out the possibility, and thus a logical flaw in your argument.

Nor I am stating that fraud doesn't go on in other parties. That would be absurd, and I think it should be rooted out wherever it occurs.

But nowhere in your post did you claim that it was impossible for doctors to commit Medicare fraud. So I didn't argue that it was. Likewise, nowhere in my comment did I claim that it was common for immigrants to engage in this behavior. I explicitly stated the opposite. Yet you reply as if I meant that?

So let me bring up another point that I hadn't remembered in my original reply: the question of scholarships. In this case, politicians, university officials, and many Church leaders have actively campaigned to create scholarships for illegal immigrants. Not in the distant past, but within the last five years.

For example: When I was a student at NC State, there was a nasty fight over giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates. This reached a true low in the pages of the Raleigh News and Observer, where my bishop (!) published an op-ed stating that people who opposed it (like me) were acting only out of anger, and intimated we were racist.

With rhetoric like that going on, you expect your students to have a clear understanding of the facts?

At 23 July, 2010 00:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 23 July, 2010 00:28, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me add another item of evidence that shows illustrates how terribly ill-founded your argument is: when I was a student at NC State, the North Carolina University system proposed granting in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. This was at a time when universities were being pressured to cut costs (or, at least, were recovering from a very severe situation), and in the (relatively rich) department where I was a student, the chair convened a faculty meeting to show that the 10% cut called for could be reached either by cutting salaries or by cutting paper usage. He included actual numbers from the department budget, and strongly recommended cutting paper usage to cutting salaries.

This fight over granting illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates reached such a pitch that the Catholic bishop of Raleigh penned an op-ed (in the N&O I believe, but perhaps it was only in the Catholic paper--either way...) stating that opposition to the proposal was based purely on anger towards illegal immigrants. He also intimated that those of us who opposed it were racists. I remember the article vividly, because I penned a sharp reply to him (to which I never received reply). In fairness to Bishop Gossman, he was merely parroting the line being bandied about quite shamelessly by those who favor such proposals: people such as I are angry racists.

I'm sure you know enough about me from my former weblog to concede that I'm neither racist nor anti-immigrant, but for your other readers: my wife and son are Russian, my mother Italian, one of my best friends Filipino, a very good friend I had in Raleigh was Mexican, and I now live in a mixed-race neighborhood, by which I mean that half my neighbors are black. Nor am I looking to move anytime soon; my neighbors are decent, peaceful folk. Even the teenagers.

So any accusation that I oppose such moves because I hate immigrants, because I hate Mexicans, or because I'm racist, are flatly absurd on their face. I oppose them for two reasons. (1) It seems quite clearly to me that it offends the sense of Rule of Law. (2) I oppose all expensive, self-gratifying notions bandied about by university administrators: they inevitable come at the expense of our legitimate students, by whom I mean legal immigrants and citizens who are struggling to attend college, and could use a little scholarship help so they don't have to work part-time, as every single one of my good math students has to do, and a number of my fellow grad students did when I was at NC State.

Given that very recent and nasty fight, I'm not at all surprised that many of your students have that attitude — or that they suspect university officials are lying to them. I'm also surprised that you should cry foul when I merely points out errors in your reasoning.

But, at least you didn't accuse me of being racist, or anti-immigrant. For that, I thank you.


At 23 July, 2010 00:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 23 July, 2010 00:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 23 July, 2010 00:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 23 July, 2010 00:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 23 July, 2010 00:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ack! My genuine apologies for the repeated posts: when I made them, Google reported an error, "Comment too long" or something like that. I had NO IDEA any of them were posted until now. Please delete all but the last.


At 25 July, 2010 14:08, Blogger Clemens said...

Oh good. You are not crazy, as Carmen feared when she saw the sheer number and size of your posts. I think I got them all out. And I told Carmen you are not crazy. At least not on the evidence of multiple posts on the same subject.

You missed my point, and I don't entirely understand yours. When we discuss immigration you seem to pick up in the middle of a conversation with someone else, someone off screen. I now think it is that bishop of yours.

I have to admit, I didn't pay any attention to the fight back then and can promise you my students, who were about 9 at the time, have no awareness of it. While it obviously loomed large where you were, up here I don't even remember it) Nor does it effect their thinking in any way. They live in a more immediate world as far as I can tell that becomes more opaque to me every year. Generations, I think, but also their world and its discourse is substantially different from mine, and even yours. This class was unusually conservative on several issues (they thought the right of the state to claim eminent domain on your property to sell to a developer was just fine, and they thought by 3 to 1 that corporations should be able to contribute as much money as they wish to political campaigns) but I think few of them thought of themselves as anything other than moderates.

As for the student who made the original argument, I was not being snide when I called him a white supremacist: he was quite open about it. He was, in fact, a racist and his rant fit in with his political agenda explained in his first essay: to deport "all Hispanic non-citizens and some citizens". He did not make a distinction between legal and illegal. He ended the essay with a political slogan, in caps and quotation marks:"Send all beaners back to where they came from." Since he knew that my wife is Hispanic, I believe he was really committed to letting me know how he felt about it. He never betrayed any personal animus to me at all, in fact seemed to like the class since I know a great deal about the real Aryans and included them in several lectures.

Now you know I know you are no racist, and I attempted to signal that to you in my first comment above. Once you quit your conversation with this other guy you will notice that I have never much said what my own attitudes are: borders should be secure, illegal immigrants are illegal, at the very least they should be deported if they commit crimes, Anglo-Saxon law does not hold children responsible for the crimes they commit (I am going astray here).

Errant nonsense is errant nonsense and when it contradicts the evidence before their eyes I expect students to see it. The fact that the students who on a gut level were repelled by the rant can not tell when they are being lied to is depressing. You are right that many of them would fall for counterarguments equally crazy, but this was a racist argument, made by a racist, to support a racist political agenda.

About you, I have no doubts. Nobody who despises Jesse Helms is a racist. It's one of the things I admire about you. Where you and I would argue is what we should do as a society about the ones who are already here. I would favor the Republican approach advocated by Ronald Reagan and George Bush II.

(The same student wrote in his final paper BTW that Negroes were "animals" and he did not use the word "Negroes". Recalling life in the 50s and 60s I leap to the conclusion that he is a stone-cold racist. His also way out there on the fringe and is not typical of anyone I have met in the last 15-20 years).

Hmph. I just realized that I may be doing what you are doing: completing a conversation with someone who got under my skin.

At 25 July, 2010 14:12, Blogger Clemens said...

I just got the same "comment too long" message!!

Hope it didn't send out multiple posts. If so, I AM NOT CRAZY.


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