Trustee Richard Ryskamp challenged the college’s continued funding for the Diversity Lecture Series at Monday’s Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees Meeting. He questioned the legality of paying Jose Antonio Vargas, the last speaker in the series and a confessed undocumented immigrant.
“It’s certainly a fact that he is an illegal alien, and it’s certainly a fact that the college was aware that he is an illegal alien,” said Ryskamp, who attended Vargas’ lecture. “…If you know that the person who’s going to come do the work for you is illegal, it’s a violation of the law.”
However, even though the Board is just now approving the $12,500 payment to Vargas’ booking company, Vargas already gave his lecture earlier in October.
“I don’t know what happens if we vote ‘no’ (on) approving this expenditure, but I feel that the law trumps those considerations,” Ryskamp said.
However, GRCC President Steven Ender was prepared with a response. He told the board that the college consulted with a local law firm multiple times on the matter.
“They assured us that we had broken no laws,” Ender said. “So I think that board members that believe they are breaking a law by voting for this should relieve their conscience of that thought.”
Ryskamp was not persuaded.
“What we have done may have been legal, but it does seem to be like getting around the law and not consistent with the spirit of the law,” he said.
The vote proceeded, passing with Trustees Ryskamp and Dr. Richard Stewart dissenting.
During his opening remarks, Ryskamp also announced intentions to further debate the continued funding of the Actors’ Theater, the Diversity Lecture Series and the Diversity Learning Center.
Vargas could not be reached for comment.
Wow Ryskamp needs to go serve on a private college board, not a public one! I don’t expect there are students that attend GRCC that might be undocumented, as GRCC taking their money must be breaking a law. Geesh…
Let’s talk about what needs to be done for immigration reform, how do we help students on pathways to becoming citizens, careers, and college ready. GRCC and the Diversity Learning Center have accomplished many great things in this community to bring attention to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Something the GRCC board should hold in high regard, not try to dismantle.
Maybe I should speak to my son about his consideration of GRCC next year, and encourage him to find a campus that accepts people for who they are and where they are at, and how to be a better person.
In reply to JA Larson-Mushing, I have three comments. 1. It is my understanding that even public colleges are supposed to obey federal law. And here is what the law says: “In general, it is unlawful for a person or other entity to hire…an alien, knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien…” and “for purposes of this section, a person or other entity who uses a contract, subcontract, or exchange…to obtain the labor of an alien, knowing that the alien is an unauthorized alien…shall be considered to have hired the alien…” INA: Act 274A, Unlawful Employment of Aliens. http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-8501.html. 2. As far as students who are illegal aliens, I don’t read anything in this law that prevents GRCC from enrolling them, nor did I say anything related to that topic. 3. I have always taken the position that I would gladly support programs that truly promoted diversity, inclusion and equity.