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OPINION - Illegal Immigrants and College in Georgia
Thursday, 24 June 2010

June 24--  This editorial is by State Senator John Wiles concerning illegal immigrants attending college in Georgia.

"The current debate over allowing illegal aliens into Georgia public colleges and universities is perhaps the easiest policy question to answer. Even if we set aside the “illegal” aspect of the student, should any taxpayer ever be forced to pay for the education of someone who upon graduation is not eligible to work? Compounding such a senseless policy is the fact that each college seat occupied by someone not lawfully eligible to work means a legal immigrant or U.S. citizen is denied the opportunity.

Taxpayers deserve accountability. It appears lost on many that state government money is not manna from heaven. Every dollar represents a portion of the life of the person who actually earned it. The government only takes these tax dollars by force.

The duty of elected officials to properly use every taxpayer dollar cannot be overstated. Subsidizing college for illegal aliens, who are not lawfully eligible to hold a job, is both illogical and immoral.

Georgia taxpayers know all too well just how expensive illegal immigration has become. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates the annual fiscal burden on Georgia taxpayers from illegal immigration is more than $1.6 billion.  Georgians are forced to pay about $1.37 billion annually on K-12 school costs for students who are either illegal aliens or the children of illegal alien parents. Add to this the costs of medical care, impact on the environment, transportation, criminal justice system, use of natural resources and more. It becomes quite clear, illegal immigration is hitting Georgian’s wallets especially hard.      

Georgia recently returned to the spotlight of the illegal immigration debate with the case of Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl. Law enforcement uncovered the fact that Colotl has been illegally in the United States for more than 10 years and unlawfully attending Kennesaw State for more than three years.  

Perhaps the Board of Regents would like to explain to the 2,747 applicants who were denied admission to Kennesaw State University in 2009, just how Jessica got in but they didn’t.

The Board of Regents, ignoring federal and state law that prohibits post-secondary public benefits for illegal aliens, claims they can rectify the matter by charging Jessica and other illegal aliens out-of-state tuition. Nonsense.

Out of state tuition does not cover the full cost of educating a student in the system. And even if it did, such a policy doesn’t address the unfairness of denying that admission opportunity to legal immigrants and U.S. citizens. Moreover, it remains an illegal act. The law strictly prohibits illegal aliens from receiving post-secondary education benefits.

This is why I recently joined my Senate colleagues in signing a letter to the Board of Regents demanding they fully comply with state and federal law by ensuring only legal residents attend our publicly subsidized colleges and universities. 

My Senate colleagues and I are tasked with spending every tax dollar as if it were our own. Paying for the education of illegal aliens at the expense of legal immigrants and U.S. citizens simply cannot be tolerated. We want people to come to the United States in pursuit of the American dream, to be successful, educated and contribute to our economy.  All we ask is that they do it legally.    

Sen. John Wiles serves as Majority Whip and Chairman of the Special Judiciary Committee. He represents the 37th Senate District which includes a portion of Cobb County.  He may be reached by phone at 404.657.0406 or by e-mail at john.wiles@senate.ga.gov.







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