Bill Would Ban Undocumented Students From Ga. Colleges

Posted: 4:35 pm EDT September 17, 2010
Updated: 5:09 pm EDT September 17, 2010

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- A state representative from Gwinnett County is preparing to introduce a bill that would prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in Georgia colleges and universities.

Rep. Tom Rice (R) said the bill would add post-secondary education to the list of public benefits that require a verification of legal status.

"I am amazed that a bill is required to force (the Georgia Board of Regents) to be responsible in this," said Debbie Dooley, a Gwinnett County resident who is active in the tea party and supports the bill.

"It is irresponsible to allow people who are in our country illegally to attend college and universities. We are a nation of laws and our laws should be adhered to," she said, adding that legal residents lose out when students who are in Georgia illegally gain entry to a college or university.

But at that same time, there is a push against such legislation and in favor of the so-called DREAM Act on the national level.

"As Americans, we stand for that (access to higher learning), we stand for hard work, we stand for education, so why would you deny them their future?" says Eva Cardenas, of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.

The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for those brought into the country illegally when they were 15 years old or younger, provided they complete at least two years of college or military service.

"These are students who have done well in school, make sure to have all their credits, have done community service, they have done all these other extra-curricular activities to get ahead. So if you get accepted, it has nothing to do with taking spots away from other American students, " said Cardenas.

"It just means they worked hard for it," she added.

She said students would pay tuition out of their own pockets, or from private scholarships. Dooley disagrees, and urges fiscal responsibility.

In August, the Georgia Board of Regents said it checked the immigration status of 50,000 incoming students, and only a fraction, about half of 1 percent, were in the state illegally.

The regents have said their role is to make sure those students pay out-of-state tuition.