New Georgia law strips state funding of 'sanctuary' campuses

Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday signed a measure into law that would cut off state funding to Georgia colleges that declare themselves “sanctuary campuses” in defiance of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.

The legislation is largely symbolic. House Bill 37 was introduced by House Republicans after Emory University and other colleges flirted with the “sanctuary” declaration. Since then, Emory and other Georgia higher education institutions have steered clear of the fight.

It faced stiff opposition from Democrats who argued it unfairly threatened students in Georgia who were granted special protections by the Obama administration and are not breaking the law.

Deal signed the measure on Thursday as part of a broader signing spree of education initiatives. He said it's a signal from the state of Georgia “saying we’re going to enforce the law and we’re going to support the federal authorities who have a responsibility to enforce the law as well.”

Students and faculty from more than 100 universities from across the country have called on their administrators to declare themselves sanctuaries after Trump’s election, partly in hopes of helping “Dreamer” students who were granted a temporary reprieve from the threat of deportation by the Obama administration.

Trump has taken a hard-line approach to illegal immigration, vowing to build a wall and crack down on the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally.

Shortly after Trump's election, the head of the state's higher education system said it was "unacceptable" for public colleges to declare themselves a sanctuary. The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, would also threaten private institutions with a costly punishment: Emory receives tens of millions of state dollars each year for health services and tuition assistance grants.

Emory University President Claire Sterk told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution such a declaration is only “symbolically important” and warned it could hurt the school’s research and education funding.

And Agnes Scott College stopped short of becoming a “sanctuary” campus, though the Decatur private school’s president, Elizabeth Kiss, said it would continue to support students who have been granted temporary protection from deportation.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.