RALEIGH — The state Attorney General's Office now says it's legal for the North Carolina Community College System to admit illegal immigrants.
That advice, given to the colleges Thursday and made public today, represents a reversal for the office of Attorney General Roy Cooper, which advised the colleges in May to bar illegal immigrants from degree programs. The colleges took that advice and issued a new policy prohibiting illegal immigrants from enrolling, even at out-of-state tuition rates.
At the time, Cooper's office said that post-secondary education might qualify as a public benefit to which illegal immigrants are not entitled under federal law. But on Monday, Cooper's office got a letter from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in response to a request for clarification of the law. The letter, from former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, who now works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that admission to colleges is not considered a public benefit under federal law.
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