Georgia Bill Deny Illegal Immigrants Access to Public Universities
Several Republicans in the state Senate today unveiled a proposal that would deny undocumented children access to all public universities in Georgia.
The proposed SB458, introduced by Republican Chip Rogers, Judson Hill and Barry Loudermilk, would require all public universities in the state to verify the immigration status of students in a federal database and deny access to those who cannot demonstrate that is legally in the country.
"Legislators are trying to deny access to higher education (undocumented immigrants) and are not going to allow that. We will keep fighting and working against this bill, "said Efe Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of Association of Latino Elected to Georgia (GALEO).
Last month, a bill which sought to deny undocumented students access to public universities in Georgia was temporarily suspended in the legislature after a public hearing at which opponents of it filled the room to present their objections.
The proposal sought to require HB59 at 35 public universities in the state to verify the immigration status of all students who wish to enroll.
A restriction approved last year by the Georgia Board of Regents gives priority to legal residents and citizens who want to study in the five public universities with limited seating.
Georgia College & State University, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Georgia are the universities must abide by the restriction, which had a total of 29 undocumented students registered last year, according to figures from the Georgia Board of Regents.
Prior to the enactment of this policy, all public universities in Georgia permitted the enrollment of undocumented immigrants, although they could not receive federal or state aid and must pay the fee reserved for non-state residents.
The proposal, which proponents claim seeks to prevent illegal immigrants get benefits funded with taxpayer money, set changes as to the identification documents accepted as valid to apply for business permits, licenses and professional scholarships.
Also, the measure seeks to relax in some cases the requirements for documents to be submitted for state benefits or services.
Immigrant rights activists describe the changes as an "admission" of the legislators that went too far with the anti-immigrant HB87 which took effect last year.
"These changes show that the Georgia Senate leaders recognize that there were major problems with HB 87 and want to try to fix them," said Gonzalez.
The HB87 became effective on July 1 without some of its toughest provisions authorizing local police to verify the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants and penalizing those who transported or harbored undocumented immigrants.
The business sector has expressed its dissatisfaction with the existing restrictions that limit the type of documents accepted as valid for services and processing permits in Georgia, to ensure economic growth is slowing in the state.
If approved, the initiative would prohibit the use of passports as identification to obtain benefits in Georgia, unless these are accompanied by other documents recognized as valid.