But the secret Sen. Loudermilk and other conservative lawmakers don’t want to admit is that there are only 300 or so undocumented students in the state’s public college system. That’s just 0.1 percent of the all the students in Georgia’s higher education population.
Sen. Loudermilk has made a mountain out of a molehill. And it’s a waste of time and energy.
Loudermilk was joined by Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Sens. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) and John Albers (R-Roswell) as co-sponsors of Senate Bill 458.
The bill would prohibit these 300 undocumented students from enrolling at any of Georgia’s 60 public or technical schools. Loudermilk claims that illegals should not take the slots reserved for taxpaying U.S. citizens at state schools. In the bill’s language, Loudermilk refers to the education as a “public benefit,” which broadens the scope to which discrimination can take place.
Colleges and universities have fired back saying they already check immigration statuses of students to determine tuition rates.
Better Georgia says that these students are in Georgia through no fault of their own. Furthermore, these students would not be accepted into our schools if they weren’t the best and brightest from their high school classes.
If SB 458 becomes law, Georgia would follow in the footsteps of Alabama and South Carolina in preventing illegal immigrants from attending public colleges and universities. This is the wrong direction.
Keeping the focus on less than one percent of the state’s post-secondary population deflects from the real issues that everyday Georgians face. For instance, the people of Bartow County, where Sen. Loudermilk’s district is based, had a 10.5 percent unemployment rate as of December 2011. That’s much higher than the state and federal unemployment rates of 9.4 (see PDF) and 8.5 percent, respectively, for the same month.
Here’s the reality check:
Sen. Loudermilk should focus on creating an environment that welcomes more jobs instead of conducting witch hunts on a handful of undocumented students. High paying businesses want a welcoming community with a well-educated labor pool.
Laws such as SB 458 are simply a political sleight-of-hand. They play into the fears of people who feel real pain in this economy but accomplish next to nothing.