The Georgia House has passed House Bill 37 (HB 37) which will cut state funding from private universities in Georgia that implement sanctuary policies for undocumented immigrants.
The bill was proposed to counteract the growing trend of universities becoming sanctuary campuses for illegal immigrants according to Rep. Terry England.
“With many cities and universities across the country becoming sanctuaries for illegal immigrants, we felt it was time that we as a state put policy in place that would reinforce federal and state law,” England said.
In early February, Emory University students called for their school’s newly appointed president, Claire Sterk, to deem Emory a sanctuary campus for undocumented immigrants. Sterk instead described her school as a “safe harbor” for documented and undocumented students at her inauguration.
Nancy Seideman, Associate Vice President of Media Relations at Emory, said that the school accepts undocumented students for admission and federal aid under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program set in place by the Obama administration.
“Emory adheres to all applicable laws, and will continue to do so. Just as we respect the authority of government officials who are performing their legal duties, we respect federal and state laws that protect the privacy of our students, including those students who are undocumented and those who are registered with the DACA program,” Seideman said.
England pointed out that students under DACA in the U.S will not be affected by the rulings of the bill.
“It is my understanding that DACA students would not be impacted nor would the institutions where they are students, England said.
Seideman added that while the school has refrained from establishing itself as a “sanctuary campus”, Emory only refuses the title out of the murkiness of its legal definition.
However, if the bill is signed into law it will define sanctuary policies as rules and regulations that restrict federal officials or law enforcement from investigating any individual who is believed to be residing in the the U.S illegally.
According to England, private institutions in Georgia that do officially become sanctuary campuses risk losing Tuition Equalization Grants, research grants, and collaborative programs between the school and the state. He hopes that this will effectively discourage private universities from adopting sanctuary policies.
“State and federal law is to be followed as we are a nation of laws. Encouraging individuals to break the law by becoming sanctuaries is contradictory to that and sanctuary campuses and cities are acting contrary to the law,” England said.
Sonja Roberts, Communications Specialist for the University System of Georgia, said that public universities like Georgia State remain incapable of adopting sanctuary policies.
“Calls for institutions to implement policies and procedures that may violate state and federal laws are unacceptable. We expect our institutions to follow the law and to cooperate with all federal and state agencies. As public employees, we have a duty to uphold the law,” Roberts said.