Bill to allow DACA recipients to qualify for in-state tuition stuck in committee

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

A Republican-authored bill that would allow young immigrants to receive in-state tuition rates at some Georgia colleges did not pass committee after an emotional hearing the day before Crossover Day.

Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R - Dalton, the author of House Bill 997, said the state should invest in the higher education of students in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. About 21,000 people in Georgia are covered by the program.

"To me, it's a workforce development issue,” Carpenter said. “They’re working in our community, living in our community, driving cars and paying taxes.”

The bill would not have allowed DACA recipients to qualify for in-state tuition at Georgia’s four research universities -- Augusta University, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University.

Higher Education Committee Chairman Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, did not motion for the committee to vote on the bill, and he said it could conflict with federal immigration law. He said he wants to wait for a U.S. Supreme Court decision on DACA that's expected later this year.

“We’re going to work toward something in the next legislative session,” Martin said.

Carpenter disagreed with Martin’s decision to wait.

“I think it’s important to address, we do things down here that conflict with the feds. We’ve been grappling with the marijuana issue for two or three years,” Carpenter continued, “I get it, but good policy is good policy.”

Carpenter left the meeting teary-eyed, while Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, who sits on the committee, embraced him.

Chances of the bill passing this session are unlikely, since legislation typically needs to move from one chamber to the other by Crossover Day to become law.