Sanity on immigration from Mike Munger

Dr. Munger sent me this by email early last week. It ran in the Durham Herald on Wednesday. I think this piece presents a fascinating and liberating view of immigration. What do you think?

I think immigrants should be able to attend community colleges. But then maybe that's because I myself am an immigrant.

Well, not really. I should say I come from a family of immigrants. My ancestors had the surname "Mancgere," or "merchant" in Anglo-Saxon. They moved from County Surrey, England, and settled in the Guilford Colony, near New Haven, Connecticut. Nicholas Munger apparently owned land there beginning in 1651.

I wonder if Nick had trouble sending his kids to community college. You see, old granddad (times 11) Nick never filled out the paperwork required to become a citizen. It seems that he landed at New Haven, left the ship, and went to visit some friends. He met a girl, they got married, and settled down on a portion of her dad's land. Nicholas was a citizen simply because he was a resident of the state of Connecticut. There was no difference.

Nicholas Munger's children, John and Samuel (I'm from the Samuel side) were both U.S. citizens by virtue of birth. But they didn't fill out any paperwork, either. If they went to school, there's no record of it. I imagine they had some rudimentary schooling, though. Nobody asked to see their green card.

"Citizen" is an arbitrary legal status. It gives me the willies to think of "citizen" as a construct that stands in for real identity. Was Nicholas an American? Once he moved here and started paying taxes, yes he was. And if he had brought a child with him, that child would have been a citizen, too. You didn't have to be born here. You just had to want to live here.

Our immigration policy today could not be more different. We make it nearly impossible for people to become Americans legally. We punish people who try to become residents. And then we deny long-time residents the benefits that we give to citizens for free.

Citizenship is a status given, or withheld, by federal law and regulation. But all of the benefits of state residence, including in-state status for schools from kindergarten through graduate school, are based on being able to establish you live here. I just dropped my son Kevin, a 12 generation American Mancgere, at UNC-Chapel Hill. No one asked for his passport. We had to show our residence address, demonstrate that we paid taxes in North Carolina, and show our utility bills. Those things proved our residence in the state. Those things qualified my son, and they should qualify anyone's son or daughter, for the benefits the state provides.

And yet, we are now rushing to deny the benefits of residence to thousands of young people who live in our state. Some have lived here for a decade or more, attending our school system and amassing an academic record that meant they earned a high school diploma. They will be working in jobs all over the state.

The children of immigrants will add, or detract, from the economic life of our state depending on whether they can acquire the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workplace. And new businesses will decide whether to locate in North Carolina, or someplace else, depending on whether we have a workforce with those same skills.

What should the standard be? What status should be required to attend community college, or college, as an in-state student? The same as for everyone else: demonstration of residence. The same as for Nicholas Munger, in 1651: live on the land, work, pay taxes, contribute to the community.

But North Carolina has decided that it will place exclusion first, and focus on arbitrary legal distinctions, rather than the welfare of its residents and the future of our economy. By barring the undocumented from getting an education, we are creating an apartheid system with fertile pickings for gang recruitment and exploitation by unscrupulous employers who thrive on ignorance. And we are telling prospective business recruits: go elsewhere. We prefer illiteracy.

Once I established that I am a resident of North Carolina, no one at Chapel Hill asked for my passport when I dropped my son off at Hinton James dormitory. And that's how it should be. Anyone who lives in North Carolina, who pays taxes here, and who accepts a stake in our economic and civic future deserves a shot at education, at the same rates as anyone else. Discriminating among state taxpayers based on where they used to live is un-American.

Michael Munger is the chair of the Political Science Department at Duke, and is the Libertarian nominee for governor in the coming election.


I agree with almost everything he says here,

but on his website, he doesn't mention a word about this sympathy for undocumented students or their parents. He does, however, go into details about his support for vouchers:

My promise is a little different, when it comes to education: 'Vote for me, and I will let you keep more of your own money, money you yourself have earned.' I would offer each parent in the state of N.C. an education voucher, financed by lottery proceeds, of $1, 250 per child in their household. This voucher could only be spent at a state-accredited school, or be credited to the household in the case of home-schooling. But I would make the accreditation process streamlined and simple, fostering the growth of charter schools, religious or theme schools, or any other kind of innovative educational program that can attract the children of parents who want to exercise their choices as parents.

Here's a question for Mike if he's reading this: would undocumented families be awarded these vouchers also? If not, wouldn't that mean they would have to pay extra (more than legal families) just to send their kids to k-12 schools?


Thanks to JP for the shout out; I look forward to the feedback.

I have never put "immigration" up on my web site, because it seems like too narrow an issue, and too federal an issue.

But I have now published two newspaper articles about my position. I'm afraid a LOT more people read newspapers than read my web site, SCH. So if you think I am trying to hide something by leaving it off my web site, but publishing it in searchable newspaper databases, I must be not terribly bright. (Possible, possible...)

The point of my essay is that any family that pays taxes gets full benefits. So, sure, yes, any family, ANY family that is in residence gets a voucher. I just assumed that was obvious. We already accept undocumented children in our grade schools, and I would certainly continue that. Education is the staircase to the American dream, and I want there to be several routes up.

Dr. Mancgere

"It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all." --Thomas Jefferson to Francois D'Ivernois, 1795.

Michael C. Munger

Well said.

I've not seen this argument made this way before. It is persuasive to me.

The NC Family Policy Council doesn't speak for my family

I wasn't really trying

So if you think I am trying to hide something by leaving it off my web site

to imply that you were trying to hide anything...well, maybe I was. It's just that this issue really is one of the core issues of your race, even if you don't consider it a top priority in a Governor Munger administration. Ergo, not finding it on your website seemed weird. Does that make any sense?

So, sure, yes, any family, ANY family that is in residence gets a voucher. I just assumed that was obvious.

Mike, we just had a hard-working and well-respected librarian here in Alamance County get locked up, and it looks like she is in the process of being deported. But as unfortunate as her and her family's situation is, she's merely one of thousands that get "discovered" and deported each year.

Why in the world would I (or anybody) think it's obvious that you would give illegal aliens anything, much less over a thousand dollars for each kid to go to a charter school? Don't get me wrong: I'm glad and pleasantly surprised (that may be redundant), but that kind of thing ain't obvious.

Also: I'm just going to assume that you will, as Governor, make sure the voucher-giving process doesn't become one more way for these folks to be "discovered" by the authorities.

There is a difference

between legal immigration and illegal immigration.

My paternal grandfather was the most recent immigrant in my family. He came over from Italy in the early 20th century. His father immigrated legally, as did everyone in his family. But his father died young, so when his mother was naturalized, so were all the children (including my grandfather). My paternal grandmother's parents and all my maternal great-grandparents were all born in Europe and legally immigrated to the USA. And this was at a time when Italians and Eastern Europeans were not very welcome in this country. Anyone remember the "no dogs or Italians" signs?

I can also tell you that there were many Italian-Americans who were deported back to the old country once the US found out they were here illegally - even when they came here as kids.

Vouchers are still a bad idea. And we have laws that require people not born in this country to come to this country in a legal way. So we still need to differentiate between people who immigrate here legally and those who do not come here legally.

I agree with part of your statement, and disagree with a lot

You're right, vouchers are still a bad idea. They're a bad idea for legal documented residents, and they're a bad idea for undocumented illegal residents. But at least Munger is carrying through his ideas across the board in a logical fashion.

But the rest of it? Just because you or a member of your family can remember it doesn't mean it was good or right, and just because the last wave of immigrants that came here had those things happen to them doesn't mean that's what should happen now. Deportation of children? An astoundingly, astonishingly, inhumanely bad idea.

Deportation of undocumented workers who are here, working, paying taxes (and not receiving nearly the benefit of it that you are?) Really bad idea. Should there be penalties? Yes, of course there should be. But deportation should be the course of last resort.

The benefit of having history is that we learn from it.

Several things....

I have done press releases, and contacted every media outlet on the list (and it's long) to try to get them to cover my position on immigration, community colleges, and schools. Yet article after article says, "Both candidates for Governor oppose community college for immigrants." Well, there are THREE candidates, and one FAVORS community college for all, but I can't get the media to even mention that I exist, much less have a different position.

Still, you are right: It should be on the website. That's fair. I still say no one would see it there, but your point is well taken, SCH.

(Side note: This a.m.'s N&O notes, on the agribusiness banquet, "Munger did not attend the banquet." Yeah, because I wasn't invited, and was not allowed to speak. Same with the "Both candidates....." stuff. Pretty darned frustrating)

Vouchers are something people can disagree with, reasonably. Interestingly, I have higher support among urban African-Americans than ANY OTHER group. The reason? Vouchers. Urban black citizens are BY FAR the largest supporters of vouchers, all across the U.S. One way to split the difference with those who (possibly rightly) think vouchers will further divide the schools is to means-test the voucher program, and ensure that public schools get the voucher increment for any students they continue to attract.

But I digress. In the legal/illegal distinction: we don't allow people to immigrate legally, because it serves the interests of corporate farming, meatpacking, and large construction firms to keep immigrants in an illegal state, virtual enslavement. Do you really think the "illegals" don't WANT green cards? Do you think they wouldn't pay everything they have for citizenship? We make immigration easy, to serve corporate interests, and make LEGAL immigration nearly impossible, to serve xenophobic demagogues like Lou Dobbs and the entire Republican party. If legal immigration were an actual option, and people had consciously avoided it, to be able to enter the U.S. without papers, then sure, deport them.

Let's apply this test: we arrest an "illegal." We ask, "Would you like to register and get a green card, and go through the process to become a citizen?" If they say "yes," (like your Italian ancestors did, and like my wife's Italian ancestors, from Calabria, did in 1906), then they can stay. If they refuse, deport them.

If you don't agree with THAT test, then your probelm is NOT with illegality, but with immigration. And that's fine, but let's not pretend.

"It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all." --Thomas Jefferson to Francois D'Ivernois, 1795.

Michael C. Munger

I'm pretty damned disgusted that you don't get coverage or get

invited to debates. I watched a bit of the McCrory/Perdue show on PBS yesterday morning. I'm pretty sure you could have raised the level of that debate, Dr. Munger.

I am far from a one issue voter, but vouchers are a big one for me. The entire issue of education is huge to me, because it's the one I know the most about, and I can't go along with vouchers. Whew!

Now - who do you recommend I vote for: McCrory or Perdue?

(This is all said as a joke, I don't expect an answer, though the bit about vouchers being close to a deal-breaker for me is serious.)