Several private citizens spoke at the Johnson County Community College trustee meeting on Thursday about students wanting to attend the La Raza conference this summer in San Antonio.
Two illegal immigrant students and five citizen students, all members of Latinos United Now and Always (LUNA), were trying to find a way to Texas sponsored by the college to attend the National Council of La Raza conference in July.
The two students without documentation likely could not get through airport security so air travel was not an option.
JCCC policy does not allow travel by car for more than 500 miles . With San Antonio 800 miles away travel by car was also not an option. Seemingly the students were without a travel option.
College President Terry Calaway was optimistic about a solution at the Board meeting last week, but as of late Wednesday JCCC spokeswoman Julie Haas said “there is no resolution to the situation yet.”
Haas said she did not know what the estimated cost might be, since travel arrangements had not been made. Haas said no taxpayer dollars would be involved and any payments would be from student fees. But aren’t student fees effectively taxes paid by students?
At the board meeting one person spoke in favor of LUNA and the conference trip, and two spoke against. See below for their comments and other discussions with Trustees, including Stephanie Sharp, Melody Rayl, and Chairperson Jon Stewart.
One speaker, Kathy Brown, was particularly offended at the speed of the response by JCCC to a claim of discrimination from LUNA, since the college had not acted in over a year on her discrimination claim on a different matter. See separate article, Former student pushes JCCC “Discomfort” complaint.
Dr. Gene Chavez, Shawnee
“I’m here in support of the students of LUNA, who have requested an opportunity to attend the national conference by the civil rights organization called the National Council of La Raza.
I would like the Board to consider … the administration that might be even-handed towards students who are here attending your college and university who are undocumented, out of no particular intention or even decision making on their part. They were brought to the United States as children …
They’re seeking for an opportunity to be contributors to this nation. …
Just a reminder: the second largest immigrant group that is undocumented coming to this nation are people coming from Ireland. …
Our nation has not had the political will to do immigration reform. We are waiting [for] the passage of the Dream Act, which would actually give these students some legal status in this country. …
Their parents often came at the behest of employers like Marriott Corporation, like Tyson Corporation, and others who were needing workers to fulfill high labor-intensive positions ..
If there have been law breakers … maybe we need to look at the culpability of corporations …”
Jim Brock, Kansas City, KS
“On the issue of funds provided to illegal residents, I would like to remind everybody that words mean stuff. Illegal is illegal.
Perhaps we need to loosen the process by which people can become citizens of this country. I really don’t care if they’re from Ireland, or Mexico, or Canada, or anywhere else. The cost for supporting these individuals continues to skyrocket.
We’re all living in a time where taxpayers are taking notice of a lot of things, and sending a lot of legislators home. …
I seriously wonder what the benefits are for that program, compared to the consequences of the program. “
Clarifications by Trustees Jon Stewart and Stephanie Sharp
Stewart explained the issue about undocumented students is state law and should be addressed by the Kansas Legislature.
Sharp explained she was in the legislature when the law was passed to allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition. She said the bill has come up multiple times over the last 4-5 years, and passed every time.
Sharp said she voted for it “a number of times.”
“They also have to be in the process of applying for citizenship.”
“It’s a lot cheaper to educate a child than incarcerate an adult,” claimed Sharp.
Kathy Brown, Kansas City, MO
Students who are “… illegal aliens have to be pursing the process of citizenship.” …
“Absolutely no inquiry is ever made after a student checks the part of the application that says, ‘Yes,’ I’m trying to become a citizen.”
“No inquiry whatever is made to find out if any of these students have in fact taken any steps to be in touch with immigration, to in fact be pursing this path to citizenship.” …
“We’re the only nation in the world” to provide K-12 education for illegal residents. “But now apparently we’re to be called upon to provide it in college too.”
Mexican President Calderon was recently asked, “What do you do when people crash your border, and they come into your country illegally? Do you let them stay there? Do you let them work there?” He said indignantly, “No, we make them leave.”
“Apparently we’re the only country that’s called racist when we want to maintain our borders, language, and culture.”
“LUNA had a discrimination complaint the other day. In three days it’s resolved. Three days. That completely validates my complaint that says if your concern is on the ‘left’, you get due process, full due process. If your concern is on the ‘right’, like mine was, it’s 15 months and now you’re on the record telling me that I’m the person who delayed it. That is an utter and complete falsity, sir.”
Comments by Trustee Melody Rayl; Questions by Chair Jon Stewart
Melody Rayl: “I’d like to address the students of LUNA briefly. … I want to compliment each and every one of you for the steps that you are taking to become productive citizens of our great nation. I fully support the Dream Act. It is through no fault of your own that you found yourselves here as undocumented people within the borders of our country.
I just want you to know that those of us who understand how that has all occurred, admire you for what you’re doing. I wish you the best of luck in the pursuit of your education, and hope that someday we’ll find you to be very successful somewhere out there in our community.”
Trustee Chair Jon Stewart asked Dennis Day about Brown‘s claim whether JCCC followed up and checked about the pursuit of citizenship by the undocumented but “legal” student. “Is there a process in place?”
Day: “All they are required to do is sign an affidavit that they are working toward that process. There is no follow-up in the statute.”
Stewart: “They have to re-apply each year?”
Day: … “You don’t get immediate answers even when you start the process.” …
Johnson County Community College is responding to allegations by members of its LUNA (Latinos United Now and Always) student club. Safety, not discrimination, is the issue at the heart of the matter, said Terry Calaway, JCCC president.
The students allege the college is discriminating against two of the students “based on lack of documentation and on national origin”.
Not so, said Calaway. The students had received funds from the college’s Student Senate to register for the National Council of La Raza conference in San Antonio, Texas, in July; seven students were planning to attend. The funds to cover the conference registration come not from taxpayers but from student fees.
The college supports car travel on college business within a 500-mile radius (this includes travel in a college vehicle or in a personal vehicle and encompasses students, faculty and staff). Farther than that, students, staff and faculty alike are asked to use another mode of transportation.
Driving safety is the impetus for that decision. Recently, JCCC students who had driven on their own to the national basketball championship in Illinois as reporters for The Campus Ledger and JCAV TV were involved in a car accident. Young students think they’re invincible, but we all know that isn’t the case, Calaway said.
The college’s Office of Student Life and Leadership offered to pay to fly all of the students to San Antonio. However, airlines ask for documentation, and two of the students are undocumented. Those students chose not to fly, believing they would not be able to proceed through airport security. For that reason, the college chose to support buying tickets for the five students who could fly without question. Again, these dollars would have come from student fees, not taxpayer funds.
“The matter is about student safety,” Calaway said. “We don’t want young students to be at risk driving to a conference that’s far away. Driving 1,600 miles from Kansas City to San Antonio and back has its risks. The college supports its student activities, but it also supports student welfare.”
- Travel for The Undocumented in JoCo, Tony’s Kansas City, May 22, 2010.
- JCCC tries to find way to send students, including illegal immigrants, to conference, Kansas City Star, May 21, 2010.
- JCCC Board Packet & Minutes for May 20 meeting
- JCCC Video: JCCC Video Server, JCCC YouTube page
Contact: Earl F Glynn, firstname.lastname@example.org, KansasWatchdog.org