MCDONOUGH, Ga. – The hot button campaign issue of illegal immigration in Georgia shot up a notch on the media radar when on Tuesday, September 21, a committee convened by the Georgia State Board of Regents released its recommendations publicly.
The primary issue being reviewed by the Board revolves around illegal immigrants attending Georgia public colleges and universities and the extent to which they are taking spaces that result in the denial of admittance by otherwise qualified, and legal, applicants.
Currently, federal law is interpreted to give individual states the right to determine policies on illegal immigrants attending public colleges and universities. Georgia has allowed admittance, but the students must pay out-of-state tuition.
A firestorm erupted in May after a routine traffic stop revealed a Kennesaw State student, brought to this country from Mexico by her parents as a child, was an illegal immigrant. She had also been paying the significantly lower in-state tuition fees. The student is now paying out-of-state tuition, and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement is giving her one year to complete her studies before being deported.
According to the Augusta Chronicle, a Mason-Dixon poll conducted last week with the Georgia Newspaper Partnership revealed 67% of those polled favor a universal ban for illegal immigrants in attending any Georgia public college or university.
As a result of the committee’s research, it has been determined that 501 of the approximately 302,000 students enrolled in Georgia’s public colleges and universities have not provided proper citizenship documentation. This does not mean that all 501 are illegal immigrants. It just means that 501 students have not provided sufficient documentation to prove citizenship.
Georgia Perimeter College reports the largest number of undocumented students with 210. The colleges that are at the heart of the issue, however, are the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State University. Combined these schools have 29 undocumented students, but they have also turned away students due to lack of space. The argument becomes: 29 illegal immigrants took spaces that were refused to qualified, legal applicants.
While the committee recommends grandfathering in these 29 students, it is suggesting that the Board ban acceptance of any illegal immigrant to a school that has had to deny admittance due to lack of space for the past two years. The ban would go into effect next year.
The Board will vote on the recommendations on October 13.
The Marietta Daily Journal
University System of Georgia