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Bill would ban undocumented students from universities

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 17:03

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Chancellor Hank Huckaby of the University System of Georgia

Senate Bill 458 would amend the state’s categorisation of higher education as a nonpublic benefit to

Senate Bill 458 would amend the state’s categorisation of higher education as a nonpublic benefit to ban undocumented students from attending state universities.

        A bill that would amend how citizens access public benefits would also change whether undocumented students would be allowed access to public universities.

        If passed, Senate Bill 458 would re-categorize higher education as a public benefit, which would place much stronger qualifications on university admissions and limit access to school only to those who qualify, namely undocumented students.

         The Board of Regents, strong opponents of both House Bill 59 and now SB 458, introduced their own policy to only bar undocumented students from the most competitive University System of Georgia schools last fall.

         The Board of Regents says its policies prevent illegal immigrants from competing with classroom space for Georgia students.

         “We believe [the Board of Regents’] policy assures undocumented students do not receive a public benefit since they must pay out of state tuition,” Chancellor Hank Huckaby of the University System of Georgia said to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 22. “No undocumented student will be taking a seat in a class away from a Georgia student.”

Stephen Anthony of the Political Science Department at Georgia State isn’t confident that the bill will drive through the House as quickly as the Senate.

       “I think it has a chance,” Anthony said. “My indication is that the Governor isn’t thrilled with it. Certainly the Chancellor [of the Board of Regents] has stated his opposition.”

“What happens at this stage of the session with bills like this is that it is not always about the merits of the bill,” Anthony said. With the general assembly session drawing to a close SB 458 will have more trouble navigating through its last crucial steps before it becomes a law.

      But SB 458 may be have a greater shot at passing because it merely amends an existing piece of legislation, according to Anthony.

 “If there is a law that does what you want and doesn’t include who you want, that’s the answer,” Anthony said.

         Anthony said the current district lines in Georgia may also shape the reason for reform bills targeting undocumented students. Some lawmakers can propose these bills without opposition in many of their districts.

       “There isn’t any historical context on this,” Anthony said.

If the bill becomes a law, without judicial consideration, it could begin affecting non-Georgia State University System students as early as spring of 2013.

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This is the last week of the General Assembly in Georgia. Let the lawmakers under the Gold Dome know your opinion before the end of the session. For more information, including locating your legislator and access to the Georgia code online, visit www.legis.ga.gov.

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