Georgia law could ban all illegal-immigrant students
Georgia Senate passed a bill earlier this month that would ban all illegal immigrants from attending that state’s public college. Georgia would join Alabama and South Carolina among states with similar laws.
Even so, Georgia College already prohibits illegals from enrolling.
In October 2010 the Georgia Board of Regents voted to ban any illegal immigrants from attending top schools in the state, GC being one of those schools.
“We were asked to look to make sure that there were no students who were currently enrolled who receive in-state tuition that weren’t documented students before the Board of Regents regulation,” Suzanne Pittman, assistant vice president for enrollment management said. “So we went through our entire student body and made sure that there were no students here that were undocumented. … We didn’t have any problems, and we had to submit all that information to the Board of Regents.”
Pittman said that when it went into effect the next year, the school had to verify legal residence of any prospective students before they were accepted into the university.
Currently there is no federal law that could ban states from instituting anything like this, but the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act has been discussed in congress as far back as 2001. The DREAM Act, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, would offer “permanent legal status to illegal immigrants up to age 35 who arrived in the United States before age 16 provided they complete two years of college. Under the act, beneficiaries would receive in-state tuition.”
The DREAM Act has not been passed though, and until that time, states can institute any kind of law banning illegal immigrants from public universities.
Assistant Vice President for International Education Dwight Call disagrees with the Georgia Senate as well as the Board of Regents in regards to current and future rules about illegal immigrants.
“That’s treating people who came here as young children, who probably didn’t have any choice, unfairly,” Call said. “What we are doing when we don’t let them go to universities, we are, in a sense, re-instituting Jim Crow.”
Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia (USG) said in an earlier testimony of the bill, that the number of undocumented students in the university system dropped from 500 last year to 300 this year, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That number is a minuscule percentage of the overall number of college students in the USG. According to the USG, the number of students enrolled in any of the 35 public universities in the state in fall 2011 was 318,027. Pittman said there were no illegal immigrants at GC when the Board of Regents passed their rule.
“We didn’t have any students that couldn’t adhere to legal presence requirement applied here, so we didn’t have to turn anyone away based on that,” Pittman said.
Even so, Pittman was not a proponent of the Board of Regents rule or Senate Bill 458.
“I hated the inconvenience for families to have to turn in additional paperwork,” Pittman said. “While we don’t have a large population of illegal immigrants that apply here, we have sister institutions (Gainesville State) that do, and I would really hate to see that happen.”
All of the international students at GC currently comply with these rules, and all are documented according to Call.
“It won’t affect any of them,” Call said.
Some students have reacted with a ‘I don’t understand the big issue’ mentality.
“I mean if illegal immigrants are already not allowed to attend top schools, why pass another law? I don’t really see how it changes things,” said freshmen English major Pearre Verdery. “It just seems like a waste of time.”
In order for Senate Bill 458 to become law, it still needs to be passed by the Georgia House of Representatives and then signed by Governor Deal. There is currently no projected date for the House to vote on it.