Latino community fears legislative bill could hurt future
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RALEIGH – A bill that would prevent undocumented youth from access to higher education has been introduced into the legislature.
“It was like is this a slap in the face to me,” Jose Rico, who attends Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, said.
Rico was born in Mexico and was brought to North Carolina at the age of 13 by his parents.
“We want to educate ourselves, we want to become full members of this society,” he said.
Members of El Pueblo, an organization that advocates for Latinos, agree.
“We have to think about the students, they are the present and they're the future,” Nayely Perez, of El Pueblo, said.
Currently, in North Carolina undocumented students can attend universities and community colleges under some restrictions.
At least one legislator is now fighting to keep them away from the classroom. Rep. George Cleveland, a Republican out of Onslow County, introduced House Bill 11 on the second day of session.
“I don't think that illegal aliens should be subsidized through the state by the state for their education and that's basically in a nutshell,” Rep. Cleveland said. “What it is, and it's really not about education. It's about the state having illegals in the system and condoning them being there.”
Rico said using the words "illegal aliens" is a form of hate and wants the public to know they too are paying a form of taxes.
“We have what is called an ITIN number, it has been given to us by the IRS since 1996,” Rico said.
Another legislator is speaking out against the bill.
“This is a mean spirited bill,” Rep. Paul Leubke, a Democrat out of Durham, said.
Rep. Leubke said their focus should be on dealing with the projected $3.7 billion state budget shortfall and not denying access to education.
“Get the budget balanced that's really the most important reason we're here and the reason people elected us, and this is really just a side issue and can hurt young people who are trying to serve our state and be educated,” Rep. Leubke said.
If passed, Rico said he fears what this means for the future.
“That's really sad and it breaks my heart,” he said.
Prayer vigils are being held across North Carolina Tuesday to defend access to higher education for all. Faith and community leaders will host the vigils in Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville and Asheville.