Georgia Considering Changes to Immigration Law

Republican Senator Barry Loudermilk has filed a bill sponsored by Senator Judson Hill and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers. The bill, if passed into law, would change some of the state legislation affecting illegal immigration. Among the changes proposed, the law would prevent illegal immigrants from attending state universities and colleges. Georgia has 35 state universities and colleges as well as 25 technical schools that would be affected by the new law. A similar proposed law was introduced by the House Higher Education Committee in January, but no vote has yet been cast on that proposed legislation. In 2011, a similar bill did not reach the House.

The proposed law also changes some of the laws regarding identification requirements for public benefits. The ID law was passed last year and requires anyone applying for any public benefits to provide a “verifiable” and “secure” document that proves that the applicant is in the country legally. Some agencies have stated that the law would delay benefits and create extra work. The law affects everything from professional license applications to food stamp programs.

The bill proposed by Loudermilk, Hill, and Rogers allows applicants to submit their identification documents up to nine months before their application, if the documents will still be valid at the time of the application. The bill also exempts US citizens applying for the same benefits from resubmitting their ID documents. The proposed law also changes the use of foreign passports as ID for public benefit applicants. Under the new law, those who submit foreign passports as their ID when applying for public benefits would also have to submit other US government documentation to prove that they are in the US legally.

Some immigration experts see the proposed legislation as a further state crackdown on illegal immigration. In 2010, a policy was passed by the Board of Regents which prevents any state school from accepting illegal immigrants if the school has rejected any academically qualified students in the past two years. That policy, some experts note, prevents illegal immigrants from attending any competitive state schools, including Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia College & State University, and Georgia Health Sciences University. Illegal immigrants may apply to other school, but must pay out-of-state tuition. Some experts argue that these policies prevent illegal immigrants from getting access to a quality education, since it raises the cost of college education and limits the schools where illegal immigrants can apply.