Ga. college applications question citizen status -- Jessica Colotl and Cobb County go national.
Jessica Colotl speaking Friday at a news conference in Atlanta after being released on bail.
Laura Diamond writes in the AJC:
Illegal immigrants who want to attend one of Georgia's public colleges have to lie on the application to get admitted.
The form used by the 35 institutions that make up the University System of Georgia asks prospective students to disclose their citizen status. They have just three options:
-- U.S. citizen;
-- Nonresident alien: A person who is not a citizen or national of the U.S. and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely;
-- Permanent resident: A non-citizen living in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence status as an immigrant.
Many Georgians are asking questions about how many illegal immigrants are attending the state's public colleges because of the case involving Jessica Colotl, an undocumented student at Kennesaw State University who has been arrested.
Georgia's current admission rules were developed after the state passed a sweeping immigration law in 2006. That law, which went into effect in July 2007, directed the Board of Regents to assure that universities aren't giving illegal immigrants benefits prohibited under federal law.
The board's attorney concluded that lower in-state tuition constituted a benefit barred for illegal immigrants, even if they graduated from a Georgia high school. He also said college presidents should stop granting in-state tuition waivers to high-achieving students who lacked legal residency.
Mark Davis and Helena Oliveriero write in the AJC an article entitled "New face on an old debate -- Colotl case spotlights illegal immigration saga in Cobb County";
John Millsaps, a spokesman for the Board of Regents, said the state’s universities are not in the business of checking students’ immigration status. Universities would have to check on the residency status of 300,000-plus students, or run the risk of racial profiling, he said. As a result, the universities don’t know how many students may be illegal.
“What do we need to know about a student?” Millsaps asked. “We need to know whether to charge them in-state or out-of-state tuition.”
In 2007, the Board of Regents changed policy so illegal immigrants at Georgia public universities could not receive in-state tuition. Illegal immigrants are charged at the higher, out-of-state rate.
Colotl, of Duluth, had enrolled a year earlier as a Georgia student, so KSU charged her in-state tuition.
“Now that we’re aware of her out-of-state status, she will pay out-of-state tuition,” Millsaps said. The tuition for in-state KSU students next fall is $2,298; for out-of-staters, $8,286.
The Legislature four years ago passed a bill that ended state-paid benefits to illegal immigrants in several areas. It allowed the Board of Regents to develop its own policy toward illegal immigrants.
Jim Galloway in the AJC's Political Insider pens a post entitled "The unauthorized alien and a Republican meat grinder":
Three candidates — former state Sen. Eric Johnson, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and former Secretary of State Karen Handel — say they’d like to see people like Colotl expelled from all state universities.
In 2005, five Republican state senators — including Chip Rogers, now Senate majority leader, and Casey Cagle, now lieutenant governor — introduced SB 171, a bill to bar undocumented students from all state universities under any circumstances.
It was withdrawn. The next year, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed SB 529, which — until Arizona passed its measure this year — was called the nation’s toughest state-sponsored attempt to curb illegal immigration.
The legislation shut off state-paid benefits to illegal immigrants in a number of areas. But the bill permitted the Board of Regents, which oversees the University System of Georgia, to develop its own policy toward undocumented students, as long as it complied “with all federal law” governing restrictions on “public benefits."
That last phrase is important.
[B]y permitting the regents to adhere to federal guidelines, the Republican-controlled Legislature authorized a loophole.
Pell Grants, the HOPE scholarship, even in-state tuition are considered a “public benefit,” and illegal immigrants are barred from receiving them. But admission to a university is not. This is the regents’ formal policy.
SB 529 demanded that businesses and other entities receiving public contracts verify that employees and other recipients of public funds are indeed citizens. But the Board of Regents was exempted from the requirement.
Since 2007, state universities have required students to provide a Social Security number, or, if they aren’t citizens, proof of legal residency.
But the University System isn’t required to make sure that the information submitted is correct. “I think the intent was that there’d be significant resources involved in trying to do that for 302,000 students every semester,” Board of Regents spokesman John Millsaps said.
Colotl, the young woman who started this hoopla, can rest assured that, in a meat grinder of a primary, an undocumented college student satisfies very few appetites. Larger game is required and will be sought.
“Washington politicians like Nathan Deal have failed to protect our borders, and state politicians like Eric Johnson exempted the Board of Regents from laws requiring proof of legal status to receive state services,” Handel said.
It’s a point the two candidates would dispute. But let the grinding begin.
And finally, from an article in The New York Times entitled "Student’s Arrest Tests Immigration Policy":
The [Colotl] case has become a flash point in the national debate over whether federal immigration laws should be enforced by local and state officials. And like Arizona’s tough new immigration law, it has highlighted a rift between the federal government and local politicians over how illegal immigrants should be detected and prosecuted.