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North Carolina State Senator Calls Education for Immigrants “Revolting”

State Rep. George Cleveland

Source: North Carolina General Assembly

In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), much has been made of the coarsening of political dialogue in this country over the past decade or two. But now, an American politician has told a constituent that his position on immigration is “revolting.”

State Rep. George Cleveland (R) of North Carolina jumped on the anti-immigrant education bandwagon recently, introducing HB11, a bill that would ban undocumented immigrants from attending college in his state. (Currently, undocumented students can attend state-funded schools as long as they pay out-of-state tuition.) If passed, North Carolina would join with Georgia and South Carolina in banning undocumented immigrant students from their public universities.

As you might expect, supporters of the DREAM Act, legislation that failed in December that would have offered a path to citizenship for undocumented students who attended college or joined the military, don’t take too kindly to such proposed legislation.

Ian Smith-Overman, a member of the North Carolina DREAM Team, dropped the state representative an e-mail, saying, “It is saddening that one of our state’s representatives would go out of their way to deny a segment of our state’s population the right to educate and better themselves.”

 Cleveland responded by saying, “I find it revolting that an American thinks that we should financially support people that cannot legally work in this country through taxpayer subsidized education.”

DREAM Activist, a group that advocates for the passage of the DREAM Act, quoted the exchange in a post and broke it down to Cleveland this way:

The response from Rep. Cleveland demonstrates that he is not aware that the North Carolina Department of Revenue collects income tax from undocumented immigrants using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs, which have been issued by the Internal Revenue Service since 1996.

The fact that immigrants do, in fact, pay taxes and contribute to public services like education that they do not use has been long known. One estimate quoted in an Associated Press article put undocumented immigrants’ contributions to Social Security alone at $9 billion—money they will never see a dime of. One study estimated that the average undocumented immigrant will pay about $80,000 more in taxes than they use in government services.

When Campus Progress asked Cleveland if he stood by statement, his response contained one word: “yes.”

North Carolina makes for an interesting study with their simultaneous dramatic demographic shifts and anti-immigrant political shift. The vast majority of immigrants in the state are Latino, and their numbers have increased significantly since the 1970s; from in 2009, Latinos were 7 percent of the state’s population, up from 4.7 percent in 2000, according to census figures.

Yet many counties in North Carolina also participate in 287(g), a partnership between the federal government and local and state law enforcement to enforce immigration laws. In November, former Campus Progress staff writer Braden Goyette wrote that the program was “sweeping up large numbers of non-criminals for deportation and opening the door to racial profiling and pretextual arrests.”

Cleveland’s anti-immigrant stance clearly resonates with some of the state’s voters. He was first elected state representative in 2004, and under his web site’s “Issues” page, immigration sits at the top, reading, “[T]his country and its economy is weakened by illegal aliens who bleed our public welfare systems dry, suppress labor rates and send their wages overseas.” Sigh.

Micah Uetricht is a staff writer with Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @micahuetricht.

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