When four immigration activists asked Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) to address a Board of Regents policy barring undocumented immigrants from enrollment to some Georgia colleges Tuesday night, they probably didn’t expect the governor to “presume” that they were undocumented.
“It can only really effectively be dealt with by the federal government at the congressional level in dealing with the DREAM Act children, which I presume maybe you are,” Deal said at a University of Georgia College Republicans meeting, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. The activist reportedly retorted, “Because I look Hispanic?” The crowd jeered while Deal apologized. He added that he would the policy would continue because it would be a huge concern for Georgia residents.
Deal had been responding to a question posed by Carver Goodhue, an advocate with the Undocumented Student Alliance who challenged the governor for being a supporter of education, but also simultaneously prohibiting undocumented immigrants “who’ve lived here their entire lives from the right to come here and attend school with all of us?” Goodhue stood with fellow activists Kevin Ruiz, Preethi Raja and Lizbeth Miranda, who stated that they were UGA students and that they were not undocumented.
Ruiz spoke to add his own points, but the governor asked, “Let me ask you this, can you give a Social Security Number?” The Athens Banner-Herald reported that Ruiz indicated, “maybe not… but he and other detractors of the Board of Regents policy argue academically qualified students who have been lifelong Georgia residents should have the same rights to an education as their United States-born counterparts.”
Under a University System Board of Regents’ policy, students are required to have a Social Security number and undocumented students are explicitly barred from enrolling in UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State in Atlanta, Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, and Georgia Regents University in Augusta. They can attend other public schools, but they must pay the higher out-of-state tuition rate even if they graduated from a Georgia high school.
A Deal supporter later told a reporter on social media that the governor was addressing a Caucasian male supporter. The reporter flatly denied that allegation, saying that the video of the incident showed otherwise. Even so, some lawmakers and other officials have made similar cringe-inducing mistakes in the past. During a town hall meeting last year, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) asked a legal resident whether he was undocumented. And racial profiling resonates with the Latino community, especially since in Arizona’s Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found to have engaged in unlawful racial profiling of Hispanics.
This is not an isolated instance for Gov. Deal who has spoke out against immigrants on education, health care, and citizenship issues. During a June 2010 Cobb County GOP Women Debate, Deal accused undocumented students in Georgia colleges for “denying a seat” to Georgia residents and other American citizens. In 2009, he also supported revoking birthright citizenship provision from the 14th Amendment, saying that it encourages undocumented immigration. And in 2011, Deal appointed to the Immigration Enforcement Review Board, an anti-immigrant extremist who advocates preserving the “whiteness” of America, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
At least 18 other states have measures allowing in-state tution rates for undocumented students. And two states, Oklahoma and Rhode Island, allow in-state tuition rates to undocumented students through Board of Regents decisions.