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Latino Daily News

Saturday March 31, 2012

Immigration Reform- Bill to Bar Undocumented From College Dies in Georgia Legislature

Immigration Reform- Bill to Bar Undocumented From College Dies in Georgia Legislature

Photo: Georgia Immigration Law Fails

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Activists hailed Friday the death of SB 458, a state Senate bill that sought to bar undocumented immigrants from Georgia’s public universities.

The bill also aimed to invalidate foreign passports as ID for obtaining public services.

“We’re very happy. It’s a victory for all Georgia residents who are fighting hard to make sure that all the students in the state, whatever their status, can go to college without leaving the state,” Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia, told Efe.

In a last-ditch effort to pass the measure, lawmakers eliminated the provision denying access to all universities and centers of higher public education to undocumented students.

Efforts that critics of the measure described as too late in coming since they considered the damage already done.

“Georgia has already been hurt by the measure and many talented students have left the state, and if the bill had passed many more students would have left the state, which would have caused even more harm to Georgia,” the ACLU attorney said.

Shahshahani said that now the bill has been defeated “we hope the legislature does not revive it or any other anti-immigrant measures.”

Georgia has had a restriction in force since last year that limits undocumented students’ access to the five most-selective state universities in order to give priority to legal residents and citizens.

Before that measure was enacted, the state allowed undocumented students to enroll in any of Georgia’s state universities, though they could not receive federal or state aid and had to pay their tuition at the much higher out-of-state rate.

SB 458 established new requirements with regard to the documents considered valid in applications for certain services and permits at local and state agencies, such as connection to water services and marriage licenses.

The provision would have criminalized the acceptance of foreign passports as identity documents for obtaining certain public services.

“It’s unfortunate that lawmakers would try to refuse basic services such as the fundamental right to get married or letting foreigners use their passports as identity documents,” Shahshahani said.

The banning of foreign passports as ID in the state contradicts a ruling of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, which last year issued a list of identity documents accepted as “secure and verifiable” that included foreign passports.

Another measure that would have required the 35 state universities to verify applicants’ immigration status was previously defeated in the legislature by strong opposition.