Georgia Considers Ban on Undocumented College Students

Critics complain that unauthorized students hog resources. Even if they're less than two-tenths of a percentage of the population.

By Seth Freed Wessler Sep 28, 2010

As the DREAM act was facing imminent defeat in the face of a Republican filibuster last week, the state of Georgia rubbed salt in the wound. A committee appointed by Georgia’s public university system recommended that the state bar undocumented residents from attending the system’s colleges and universities.

The DREAM act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who graduate from college or serve in the military, is not likely to pass this year. Without it, most undocumented students will be confronted with high and often unaffordable tuition. In Georgia, some may now be legally barred from access to any higher education at all.

In May, the debate over admitting undocumented students into Georgia state colleges came to a boiling point when 21-year-old Jessica Colotl, an undocumented student, was detained after a campus traffic stop. Following pressure from local activists, she was released and allowed to finish her education.

If the regents pass the the newly recommended rules, others in Colotl’s situation would be entirely excluded from ever going to college. Like Colotl, many students who lack documented status came to the United States with their parents and have lived here for most of their lives.

The committee also recommended to the State Board of Regents, the governing body for the state system, that the schools actively check the immigration status of any applicants seeking in-state tuition.

If the recommendations are implemented, Georgia would be the first state to actively ban undocumented applicants from getting an education in the public system.

In at least 10 states, undocumented state residents can attend public universities at in-state tuition rates. The remaining 40 charge these students out-of-state tuition fees, but don’t meddle with their formal right to an education.

The debate in Georgia has centered around complaints that admitting undocumented students into a crowded system pushes citizens out. A recent Mason-Dixon poll found that 67 percent of Georgians support an outright ban on admitting undocumented immigrants.

Ironically, undocumented students comprise less than two-tenths of a percentage of all Georgia public university students. And according to recent research, even those states that do provide in-state tuition to undocumented students are not seeing a significant rise in applicants from the population.

Despite this, the presence of undocumented immigrants in public universities has become a subject of heated controversy all over the country as states move to implement heavy handed policies that target immigrants.