A bill sponsored by , R-Cassville, and passed by the Georgia Senate on a 34-19 vote would bar illegal immigrants from the state's higher-education offerings at universities, colleges and tech schools.
Senate Bill 458, which now will go to the House for consideration, would require post-secondary-school applicants to submit documents verifying their citizenship, according to a Senate press release. It would apply to the University System of Georgia's 35 colleges, including , and the Technical College System of Georgia's 25 schools, including .
“The Georgia Board of Regents is re-interpreting federal policy by allowing undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities at the out-of-state tuition cost,” Loudermilk said in a press release. “However, under federal code, post-secondary education is listed as a public benefit and therefore requires applicants to present a secure and verifiable document. SB 458 is meant to clarify legislative intent and ensure our state is in compliance with federal law.”
Should lawmakers push for tougher Georgia illegal immigration laws, already considered harsh under a 2011 law requiring employers to verify work eligibility and empowering police to probe immigration status? Tell us in the comments.
But state college and university officials who oppose the bill cite steps already taken to ensure illegal immigrants don't fill slots that would otherwise accommodate U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Illegal immigrants can't attend campuses that reject academically qualified students, per a policy that applies to Georgia's five most competitive colleges. The price tag at the state's other colleges is three times more for illegal immigrants, who can attend those campuses but have to pay out-of-state tuition.
While supporters say applicants' citizenship verification is necessary to ensure education funding benefits students legally in the country, opponents say students motivated to further their education would be unfairly denied the opportunity to do so.
State Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, said the "criminal measure" would destroy the dreams of students brought as children to the United States by their parents, Fox News Latino reports.
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"I truly do feel compassion for anyone who will be impacted by this legislation, and I applaud anyone who wants to work towards a college degree," Loudermilk said in the release. "Nevertheless, this should not be an exception to following the due process of law.
“The key word to remember in this legislation is ‘illegal.’ Verification is required for employment in Georgia, and undocumented students graduating from post-secondary institutions in our state will not be able to attract gainful employment."
University System officials and Democratic lawmakers further argue that illegal immigrants don't receive the "public benefit" of higher education subsidized by state or federal funding because higher tuition rates cover their costs.
While federal law does not bar illegal immigrants from attending public colleges, it prevents them from receiving a public benefit, Loudermilk points out.
Federal authorities say states should decide "whether or not to admit illegal aliens into their public post-secondary institutions," according to the AJC.