Dozens protest measure to ban illegal immigrants from Georgia’s public colleges

Dozens gathered in front of the state Capitol Tuesday to protest legislation that would ban illegal immigrants from all of the state’s public colleges and universities.

Undocumented high school senior Elizabeth Garibay was brought to the U.S. by her parents when she was five years old. Garibay lives in Athens, takes AP classes and until recently dreamed of attending college in Georgia. She says the measure banning undocumented students from the state’s colleges and universities is unfair and unjust.

“It resonates with people like me as an indication that we will never be good enough and that we will always be second rate. It indicates that even if we had a 4.0 GPA I couldn’t dream of getting into community college. Even if I had all the money in the world to pay tuition with I would be turned away.”

Opponents also say the measure could force some of the state’s best and brightest students to look for opportunities out of state. But supporters say it’s needed to clarify legislation that passed in 2006. The legislation toughened the state’s immigration laws by placing stronger verification requirements for employment and limiting illegal immigrants’ access to public benefits. Dustin Inman Society President D.A. King says receiving an education at the state’s colleges and universities is a public benefit that only legal immigrants and U.S. citizens should have.

“We all feel sympathy to these youngsters. The fact is we cannot educate everyone. We have to have priorities, and our priorities in Georgia should be people who are lawfully, respect our laws and our eligible to work.”

Currently, illegal immigrants are prohibited from attending any state college or university that has rejected academically qualified applicants in the previous two years. But undocumented students can still be admitted to other Georgia institutions if they pay out-of-state tuition. The legislation recently passed a Senate committee and could soon be debated by the full Senate.

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