Board votes down tracking undocumented students
by Staff Writer
A move by three Mecklenburg County commissioners to find out how many undocumented immigrants are enrolled in the county’s school system was not based on hate, says north Mecklenburg’s representative on the board.
Commissioner Karen Bentley, who represents the Lake Norman area, joined south Mecklenburg commissioner Bill James and at-large commissioner Jim Pendergraph in requesting that the board discuss the proposal at its Aug. 14 meeting. The motion, which was ultimately defeated by a 5-3 vote, would allow the county to find out how much money its spending to educate undocumented immigrant children.
“We would not be distinguishing undocumented students from legal students in the system,” Bentley said. “We are simply asking CMS to capture data for us so we have a clear understanding of …where county dollars … are going to fund students.”
Several opposing commissioners – three Democrats and one unaffiliated – called the move an example of classic election-year pandering.
The final vote was split along party lines with three of the board’s Republican commissioners – Bentley, James and Pendergraph – voting in favor of the proposal. The board’s fourth Republican, Neil Cooksey, expressed his support, but left the meeting before the final vote due to illness.
“Every year, about this time, you get some of these outlandish comments,” opposing commissioner George Dunlap said. “What’s it all about? It’s political season.”
The presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he opposes the Obama administration’s plan to grant temporary amnesty for almost 2 million undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors. The federal program began Aug. 15.
More than 15 protesters from Familias Unidas, a Charlotte-based Hispanic grassroots organization that supports families going through deportation proceedings, attended the meeting to voice their opposition.
Pendergraph told the board that the protesters did not understand the true intent behind the proposal. He estimated that 8,000-10,000 undocumented students are enrolled in CMS.