Governor Nathan Deal was the speaker at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the University of Georgia College Republicans in Athens. A crowd of over 100 listened to him as he gave a version of his stump speech, touching on education, jobs and business recruitment, and sentencing reform. It was all pretty standard stuff, until Carver Goodhue stood up and asked Deal why undocumented students cannot attend the University of Georgia. And that’s when things got interesting.
Goodhue, who appears to be a 2013 Star Student graduate of Clarke Central High School, is a member of UGA’s Undocumented Student Alliance, which “engages in service and advocacy to promote equality and inclusiveness within our community despite a person’s legal status,” according to its Facebook Page. The group would like the Board of Regents to eliminate a four year old policy that prevents illegal immigrants from attending Georgia’s selective universities.
According to the Athens Banner Herald, this was the Governor’s response to Goodhue’s question:
“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. “The policy of requiring that you be a legal state resident is one that’s been in place for a very long time, and I think that you would find that it would be a policy if it were overturned it would be a huge concern for the residents of our state. And that’s why I think the Board of Regents has continued to require that.”
Goodhue pressed on, and Ruiz chimed in with his own points, to which the governor asked, “Let me ask you this, can you give a Social Security Number?”
Maybe not, Ruiz said, 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.
Flagpole continues the story:
During his response, Deal said, “I presume that you are” undocumented.
“I don’t know why you thought I was undocumented. Is it because I look Hispanic?” one of the students, Lizbeth Miranda, told him, prompting boos from the audience at a UGA College Republicans meeting.
“I apologize if I offended you,” Deal said.
Governor Deal continued to insist that the issue of undocumented immigrants wanting to become college students should be dealt with at the federal level. And, the ex-Congressman complained that whenever a proposal to reform the immigration process comes up in Washington, it is denounced as amnesty, and the proposal goes nowhere. That drew a standing ovation from those in attendance that ended the discussion about undocumented students.
What can we learn from what happened at the meeting?
First, it was wrong for Governor Deal to assume that the students speaking up about access to college by undocumented students were illegal immigrants. However, it was also wrong for Miranda to imply that Deal’s statement was because of her race. As the editors of the Arch Conservative point out,
The governor stated twice, not once, that he “presumed” the protestors were undocumented. The first time he was responding to a question from a white male; the second time he was responding to a question from Miranda.
The fact that Deal made this statement on two occasions indicates that he was not, in fact, making a presumption based upon race, but upon the entirely reasonable suspicion that radical activists working on behalf of illegal immigrants may be illegal immigrants themselves.
Second, it’s wrong for some to assume that the standing ovation given the governor was in support of the policy that keeps undocumented immigrants from attending the Peach State’s premier universities. As Georgia Association of College Republicans Chairman (and new Peach Pundit intern) Will Kremer pointed out at our recent immigration forum,
We don’t see them as these invaders, coming into America, to destroy our country. We see them as our friends that we had art class with at elementary school. We see them as our friends who used to come to our house and play games … we see them as our friends we graduated high school with. That’s how we view them. We don’t view them as monsters; we don’t view them as people coming to suck off of government programs.
That quote, at 18:30 in the video, represents the views of many of the Republican millennials I’ve spoken to about the issue. It’s entirely reasonable to assume that the students rose in in agreement with the Governor’s assessment that calling any type of reform amnesty prevents working towards a solution to the problem.
Congressman Rob Woodall’s Seventh District, covering parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, is the most diverse in the Southeast. Monday night, Woodall held a town hall in Lawrenceville, which I also attended. The average age of those in attendance was considerably older than those at Tuesday’s meeting.
Immigration was one of the topics discussed at the town hall. Specifically, Woodall brought up DACA, President Obama’s effort to shield the young adults who were illegally brought to the United States as children from being deported. The type of people that Goodhue hopes will eventually be able to enroll at UGA.
I don’t think an executive order by the President is the proper way to solve the problem of the Dreamers. Congressman Woodall tried to talk about some alternatives. Many in attendance didn’t want to hear it. They called it amnesty.