Georgia proposes baseless, hateful college ban on undocumented

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According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, a committee created by the State Board of Regents of Georgia recommended that undocumented students be barred from attending the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and any other public school that doesn’t have the space to admit all academically qualified applicants.

Revealingly, out of the 310,000 students in the Georgia college system, only 501 are “officially” undocumented. That’s less than .16 percent, a very small amount of students.

But this recommendation is even narrower in its scope; it would only affect schools that have had to turn away academically qualified students in the past two years, where there is a mere 29 undocumented students. 29 out of 310,000, then.

Committee admits to cowardice

The Chair of the Committee, Regent Jim Jolly, voted for the recommendation yet hedged quite a bit:

We find ourselves in debate over a very, very insignificant number of students, but we recognize this is not an insignificant issue. It is a political and emotional issue and I think we have made good progress in addressing the concerns out there.

Regent Larry Ellis voted and spoke similarly to Jolly,

Thirty kids out of 310,000, Give me a break.

Two college presidents and a chancellor, also members of the committee, took the easy way out and abstained from voting, stating:

We on staff are divided [in our] opinion of this

When peoples’ livelihoods are at stake–namely the future humans that will be prevented from attending school because of a misdemeanor(and probably not in many cases) committed by their parents –indecisiveness is unacceptable.

One regent, Felton Jenkins,  spoke the truth, exposing the rationale behind the proposed ban:

We need to do what’s right, not what’s expedient. I don’t think it’s right to turn down qualified people.

Note that even those that voted in favor of the ban admitted that there is likely no significant displacement of academically qualified legal residents by undocumented students.

Regent Larry Walker stated that the reccommendation should be voted or the state legislature will take over the issue, and the latter is entirely concerned not with good policy but obtaining votes from the Georgia populace.

To wit: the Georgia state Legislature wants to pass a law that bans undocumented students from all public colleges.

The whole context leads to the conclusion that the Regents members believe that the recommendation they voted on is baseless, yet they are voting anyway in the slim hope that the legislature does not completely bar undocumented students from the public colleges of Georgia.

The Regents’ members should not succumb to this dirty political game(like John McCain, for example), where moderates try to appease the more extreme voice by making concessions that do nothing to prevent the greater harm.

In fact, Senator Dan Balfour(R), already said the concession is not enough:

It will calm some of the concerns, but I don’t think it will stop the legislation from passing.

Develop factual record, stand up for what is right

Rather than spew out lukewarm justifications for recommending something they know is ridiculous, the Regents members should have unequivocally rejected banning undocumented students from attending any public colleges. In doing so, they should have conducted a thorough study concluding what their words show is obvious: undocumented students in Georgia have a negligible displacement effect on legal residents.

Instead, now there is no barrier to the the state legislature ramrodding a law banning all undocumented students from public colleges.

Exposure to lawsuit a la Plyler v. Doe

A law banning all undocumented students from public colleges in Georgia raises constitutional concerns. In Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court held that when states limit the rights to individuals based on alienage(i.e. undocumented students), the state must determine whether that limit furthers a substantial goal of the state.

At this moment,  the infinitesimally small number of undocumented students in the Georgia public colleges seems to indicate that a law banning all undocumented students from attending public college would not further a substantial goal of the state. Furthermore, this law is not simply a limit on the right to education–it is a complete revocation of the right.

Thus, the rationale behind Plyler grows stronger since the harm done–namely, the contribution to a permanent underclass of those otherwise qualified students who would be prevented from higher education–is far greater than whatever interest the state may have, if any interest exists at all.

Go ahead, Georgia, spend millions of dollars and time on a useless, cowardly initiative that could very well be struck down at an appearance from the ACLU.

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