Political discourse on immigration in a race to bottom

by Kirk Ross

The Guv gets it

Affix blame if you would firmly with the campaign class – the pollsters, consultants and money folks – and shame to the candidates who listen to them over the reaction of our gubernatorial candidates to a ruling that allows undocumented immigrants the opportunity to a community college education in the state of North Carolina.

Immigration is the new gay and, thanks to the steady work of demagogues, those afeared of being “soft” on immigration are trying to outrun each other to whatever quadrant political game theory says is safest.

You’d think we just open the gates to the English-hating hordes, but the ruling will affect only about 350 students, all of whom are paying out-of-state tuition and who for the most part came here when they were too young to know they were breaching the borders of a superpower. How would they know that one day they’d run afoul of the campaign pledges of those trying to outdo each other in how secure they say they’ll make us?

Here’s the rundown:

• Richard Moore says his experience as a federal prosecutor informs his right to say he doesn’t support educating them. Illegal means illegal;

• A spokesperson for Bev Perdue told WRAL that she doesn’t think anyone in the country illegally should be able to attend an NC community college;

• Fred Smith says plainly “no way,” called on the legislature to overturn the ruling and laid into Attorney General Roy Cooper. He also says the issue is “complicated”;

• Bill Graham says educating the undocumented hurts NC workers’ retraining and offers the preposterous premise that we shouldn’t be educating people who are “unemployable” due to their illegal status. Dude, look around;

• Bob Orr says “me, too” to no education, but add that the feds need to solve this.

Contrast that with the actual governor, also a former prosecutor, who has seen North Carolina’s economic opportunities beckon a half-million or more to the state during his tenure. Easley said it doesn’t make sense to shut the kids out and he’s simply playing the hand he’s been dealt.

And, unlike his potential successors, the governor had the nerve to mention that the lives of real human beings are involved.

Here’s what he told the Charlotte Observer:

“The people we are talking about were brought here as babies and young children through no fault of their own…. They distinguished themselves throughout our K-12 system. Now, I’m not willing to grind my heel in their faces and slam the door on them.”

Easley also says he expects the next governor to not hold onto their current position (which is heavy on the heel grinding) for long, especially since without federal reform the hand they’ll be holding will be exactly the same.

McCory’s trial gondola

Speaking of running for governor, not long after being sworn in for his seventh term, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCory let it be known that he’s considering it.

He told Under the Dome he’ll be doing some “soul-searching” about a run over the holidays.

Most of the time when someone tells reporters from a major newspaper they’re contemplating a run, it means operators are standing by waiting for the calls from supporters to rain in.

McCory’s entry could really shake up a race where the GOP’s field hasn’t been able to crack the lead built up by none-of-the-above. And while it may take some serious work and even more serious dough to move from 58,000 votes in Charlotte to the roughly 2 million it’ll take to win the mansion, McCory’s got a lot of built-in crossover appeal with pro-business Democrats and light-rail enthusiasts. There’s also that little matter of the Democratic candidates determined to brawl their way to May.

Kirk Ross travels the state for and writes about state governance on He can be reached at