Governor Deal, Undocumented Students, and Amnesty

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.

Carver Goodhue, second from left, addresses Governor Deal, along with Kevin Ruiz, Preethi Raja and Lizbeth Miranda.
Carver Goodhue, second from left, addresses Governor Deal, along with Kevin Ruiz, Preethi Raja and Lizbeth Miranda. According to Flagpole, all are UGA students. (Photo: Jon Richards)

What happened has been written up in at least five different publications. I was in attendance as well.

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.


  1. FranInAtlanta says:

    My understanding is that, for a long time, graduation from a Georgia high school made one eligible not only for a state school but also for the Hope Scholarship if the student was otherwise qualified (I am quite sure that some did use the Hope.). That has changed sometime within the last ten years (can’t remember exactly when).
    If the Hope and good state colleges and universities are positive in that they provide a workforce that will attract good businesses, then it makes sense to go back to Georgia high school graduation rule.
    We have de facto amnesty now and whatever Obama does will not be undone by a Republican President. So we might as well begin to settle on what we will do.
    For what it’s worth, I almost always vote Republican or Libertarian.

    • rmarsden89 says:

      The Georgia high school rule would be a good rule, but I think that in that you should include people who live in Georgia and go to a high school in another state, whether its a boarding school or the student lives on the boarder of another state and goes to school there, I know they do that now because multiple kids from my old high school in Tennessee received the hope scholarship this year.

  2. John Konop says:

    We are dealing with many realities with this issue:

    1) Any student given in state tuition, Hope….is getting a subsidy from tax payers. We only have so much money…..

    2) Most of the kids grew up here by no choice of their own….and would have a very difficult time surviving in their home country after growing up here.

    3) If we do not educate the kids they will be a drain on our society on a macro….

    4) We must deal with this on an economic and human manner…not spewing culture war, criminals…..most the kids especially trying to get into colleges are just kids trying to get a head.

    5) We should not have people rooming our country undocumented…

    6) Both parties for years had a wink-wink policy promoting their parents to come here for work…

    Knowing the above it is time for adults to work out a compromise.

        • Michael Silver says:

          Georgia taxpayers pay approximately $7K for each student within the University System. These Illegal Aliens are in reality stealing taxpayer money from deserving Americans (taxpayers and the students).

          The question that should be asked of these foreign invaders: why should they receive anything for violating our nation’s laws? What other laws don’t they think apply to them?

          • John Konop says:

            ………..foreign invaders……….

            Both parties have sent mixed messages for years to illegal immigrants….they can get loans, drivers licenses in some states, wire money, recruited for jobs, open bank accounts in some states……We most lower the tone and work on real solutions….

          • John Konop says:

            …..Georgia taxpayers pay approximately $7K for each student within the University System….

            That number is all over the board…..out of state students pay almost twice as much as in state students…I would argue the average out of state students help pay for the in state students since they pay more than 7k extra on a macro…..foreign students probably pay the most….

            • MattMD says:

              Along with most of his post, that number sounds like nonsense to me.

              GT currently receives 35-37% of its budget (which I believe to be instructional) from the state. Auxiliary services which runs housing, parking and dining is completely self-sustaining.

              You are right about international students, as their tuition/fees are out of sight.

              • Michael Silver says:

                My original $7K/enrolled student was from my memory. The actual number is $5,588 per student.

                The source is the University Systems 2013 Annual Report found here:

                State Appropriations to System for instruction (page 8) = $1,555,517,110
                Number of students (FTE) (page 7) = 278,319
                1,555,517,110/278,319 = $5,588

                Each one of these Illegals are converting, by theft of services, money that should go to educating Americans and legal immigrants including student visa holders who followed our laws.

                Instead of heckling Gov. Deal, they should be thanking him and the Board of Regents for funding their ill-gotten educations. Of course, since they don’t believe any laws apply to them as they look for the next handout, they are here demanding more.

                • Michael Silver says:

                  I should add the $5.6K/student is cash out of pocket. There are other longer term liabilities (health care, retirement) the state is on the hook for which accounts for the bigger disparity between in-state tuition and out-state tuition.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        I’d research no. 3 as well.

        It depends on what kind of degree they get. How many graduates can you think of who got degrees, couldn’t get a job in the field they trained for, and now have to apply for deferment after deferment on their college loans? That’s a problem with even native-born graduates, let’s not expand that if we can help it.

  3. griftdrift says:

    Cliff Notes version

    -Students act provocatively because when you are 20 years old and involved in something VERY IMPORTANT that is what you do

    -Governor tries to be clever and flubs it

    The End

  4. Doug Deal says:

    The name of the organization was the Undocumented Student Alliance. Assuming they are “undocumented” because it is in the title of their organization is not an off the wall assumption. He begged forgiveness for it and moved on. People harping on this should grow up and do the same.

  5. saltycracker says:

    An Undocumented student or spokesperson/alliance should not have any consideration by any administration less than the Feds that have repeatedly said immigration is their responsibility.

    That said the law and enforcement remains in chaos. Fix it. We keep the compliant, most skilled, out while allowing those non-compliant to have access to taxpayer monies.

    That said, for the kids that have been here and are high performers, why not give the same consideration as a citizen of their native country, Letting them pay full tuition and no access to public monies. Maybe I missed something in our current process.

    • Harry says:

      I wonder how it would go if an American citizen went to a Mexican university and demanded the native tuition?

        • Harry says:

          I wonder how it would go if an American citizen went to a university in any other country and demanded the native tuition?

          • Chet Martin says:

            Perhaps it’s a radical notion, but I’d hope that our City on a Hill lives up to a higher standard than Latin American banana republics

            • Harry says:

              We can’t afford to provide free or subsidized higher education to nonresidents and undocumented people. And guess what – no other country does it, including your enlightened European model “social” democracies.

              • Chet Martin says:

                I’m no social democrat, and Europe is not my model. The ideal nation, as we all know, would be a benign dictatorship by philosopher-kings or Beyonce.

                Two points leap out. Undocumented students are banned at the state’s top five universities even if they pay out-of-state tuition; clearly the opposition is about something more than money. Second, given the tens of thousands the state has already spent to educate undocumented students K-12, can we really afford to spurn that much human potential for the sins of their fathers?

              • benevolus says:

                Well for whatever reason it apparently costs less to get higher education overseas:

                “The majority of international degree programs take less time to complete than standard four-year American universities, which can be cost efficient in terms of tuition in the long run, according to Irons.”

                ”Many countries average tuition is less than that of the US, he says. ”

                ”While there are few scholarships available for U.S. students, because of the difference in tuition, it still ends up being an affordable decision, says Mikal. Additionally, you receive free healthcare and there are many student run events and free opportunities as well.”

  6. seenbetrdayz says:

    Governor Deal continued to insist that the issue of undocumented immigrants wanting to become college students should be dealt with at the federal level.

    I’m kind of disappointed that the gov’na kicked the can back to the Feds. Undoubtedly, he’s hoping they’ll enact some sweeping policy so later he can say, “my hands are tied,” when in reality, he was sitting on those hands.

  7. Jon Richards says:

    The University of Georgia College Republicans posted the following on their Facebook page tonight:

    There have been several news stories published about Governor Deal’s comments regarding undocumented students at our meeting last night. We strongly object to those pieces attempting to portray the governor as a bigot. This is a categorically false characterization.

    Governor Nathan Deal has always placed student concerns at the forefront of his agenda as evidenced by his continued support for the HOPE Grant, which provides state funding for Georgians to obtain a technical education, as well as his tireless efforts to maintain the solvency of the HOPE scholarship, which is instrumental in allowing many of us to attend UGA.

    The students who posed the controversial question to the governor did indeed have a legitimate concern, but the combative manner in which they voiced that concern was designed to elicit news coverage rather than a substantive response. Despite this, the governor explained that the issue of undocumented students at Georgia universities is invariably tied to federal politics and the issue of amnesty.

    The governor’s qualified presumption that “I presume you probably fit the category” of an undocumented student, was said not based off of some racial prejudice but rather in an attempt to empathize with students in a situation where he had been, essentially, ambushed with a hostile question.

    UGACRs are proud to stand behind Governor Deal, a man who has done immense good for this state. We would urge any students to resist the temptation to make a snap judgment about last night’s comments, and instead gain a full view of the facts before forming their own conclusions.

    • tribeca says:

      I’m a big critic of Governor Deal, but I don’t think he’s a bigot. At the same time the “he’s just trying to empathize with students” line reeks of manure. This wasn’t empathy, it was an inarticulate moment (a Biden moment, as some on the right would call it). There’s nothing to see here.

      UGACRs are woefully mistaken, however, if they think Governor Deal “saved” the HOPE Scholarship. For the upper-middle class white folks that typically constitute the UGACR membership, Deal and GOP certainly saved HOPE from both insolvency and the income cap it desperately needs. For lower-income students (the one’s the scholarship was originally intended for), Deal’s plan has actually made it harder for them to attend UGA.

      I say this as someone who was a member of UGACRs (what, they had cuter girls, don’t judge me…) this was the first non-softball question that has ever been asked at one of their meetings.

  8. Dave Bearse says:

    A problem with Deal’s presumption that any student was illegal is that there are virtually no illegals attending any Georgia university system institutions. 501 illegals out of 310,000 total students per this source:

    That works out to 0.0017%. I’ll wager it even lower at UGA.

    Then again, the GOP cited a hand full of dubious ballots out of tens of millions cast as significant cause to tighten requirements for voting at the polls, yet thousands of proven fraudulent absentee ballots aren’t a concern when reducing restrictions on absentee ballots.

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