On Saturday, immigrant students and activists will embark on a 20-mile trek from Chapel Hill to Raleigh to urge N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper to provide a legal opinion on whether students in the U.S. without documentation qualify for in-state tuition.
This is the latest step in a recent push by student-led organizations such as the North Carolina DREAM Team, Immigrant Youth Forum and Students United for Immigrant Equality to advocate for in-state tuition for students without documentation.
attend the protest
Time: 8 a.m. Saturday
Location: Departing from Peace and Justice Plaza, 179 E. Franklin St.
The groups are campaigning through rallies, press conferences and an online petition to Cooper, the UNC-system Board of Governors and the N.C. Community College System.
“The marches, the rallies, they came out of the need to put pressure and hold (Cooper) accountable,” said Daniela Hernandez Blanco, a UNC sophomore and an advocate for the One State, One Rate Campaign for in-state tuition. “He’s running completely silent.”
In the past few months, groups in the campaign held press conferences in Charlotte and Durham, as well as two rallies outside Cooper’s office.
Another rally was held in November at the Equality N.C. Foundation Gala in Greensboro, an event Cooper attended. Hernandez Blanco said students were able to catch Cooper as he was leaving, and he promised a decision in the following week.
But despite numerous phone calls afterward, he has remained silent, Hernandez Blanco said.
“While he’s remaining silent, he’s holding our degrees hostage,” she said.
Hernandez Blanco said the organizations want the march on Saturday — called the March of Broken Dreams — to garner even more public exposure.
“We’re not going to rest,” she said. “We are not leaving until we get what we want.”
Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for Cooper’s office, said in an email the attorney general’s office is working on providing a response.
N.C. Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford) also sent a letter to Cooper in mid-December requesting a review of the law requiring students without documentation to pay out-of-state tuition. Brandon also requested Cooper’s written legal opinion as to whether these students are eligible for in-state tuition.
“We would like for him to be on record and give an opinion as the state attorney general,” he said. “I really reasonably believe we have a case here.”
Brandon said he was not able to get in touch with Cooper for a response during the holidays, but he expects a response by the end of the week.
Even with a response from Cooper, the earliest that students without documentation would be able to receive in-state tuition would be next May when the General Assembly would be back in session to change the law, Brandon said.
However, he said, it is doubtful a change would happen that soon.
Joni Worthington, spokeswoman for the UNC system, said the system must charge students without documentation out-of-state tuition unless the law changes.
“Our campuses could not charge in-state tuition rates to undocumented students without a change in state law,” she said.
But Brandon said he would encourage, support and possibly even write this legislation in the future.
Brandon said he enjoys watching all the advocacy efforts that students without documentation have coordinated recently.
“If you don’t advocate on behalf of yourself, no one will advocate for you,” he said. “I think it is beautiful to watch, and I think they are doing an excellent job.”
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