As the House Higher Education Committee decided to hold off voting on a bill that would bar illegal immigrants from attending Georgia public colleges after a packed public meeting, Chairman Carl Rogers said that he plans to meet with college leaders and others to look at adding flexibility to the bill.
After the meeting, Rogers said:
“I don’t think we’re ready, and I don’t think the bill is ready.
“It’s a very hard issue. It’s a very emotional issue.”
It is thought that the earliest the committee could vote would be in two weeks, writes Laura Diamond at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The controversial bill would prohibit illegal immigrants from enrolling in any of the 35 colleges in the University System of Georgia and the 25 colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia.
Colleges would be required to run students’ names through a federal database and only if they pass are they allowed to attend a public college.
Rep. Tom Rice, R-Norcross, who sponsored the bill, believes that this is about keeping seats open for those who are here legally.
“I feel that students who are here without legal documentation should find opportunities elsewhere to get their education.”
While Rice had some support at the meeting, the majority of those that attended were there to voice their opposition.
Keish Kim, an illegal immigrant who graduated from Centennial High in Roswell in 2009, said:
“This is about dreams; it’s about goals.
“I really hope that this state government doesn’t stop and halt dreams.”
Dozens of students wore scarlet U’s to represent the stigma and denied opportunities “undocumented” students face. They, along with University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby, want to see the bill turned down.
Instead, Huckaby wants to see the system study the effects of new policies like the barring illegal immigrants from attending any college that has turned away academically qualified students, which were implemented last fall.
Colleges like the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Health Sciences and Georgia College & State universities would be affected in the bill passes.
Illegal immigrants may be permitted to attend the other 30 colleges in the state, but they must pay the higher out-of-state tuition rates.
Of the system’s 318,000 students, about 300 are “undocumented,” Huckaby said.