A few minutes ago, the state Senate approved, on a 34-19 vote, a measure to bar illegal immigrants from Georgia’s 60 public colleges.
The topic, again, was fraught with emotion. But one of the more nuanced voices belonged to the leader of Senate Republicans in the chamber, President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons.
Williams represents south Georgia farm country, and he began by talking about the trouble blueberry, onion and corn farmers have had bringing in their crops since passage of last year’s Republican-backed bill to crack down on illegal immigration in Georgia.
“I have farmers that can’t get labor,” Williams said, predicting that the U.S. will soon begin importing food now raised in Georgia. “If you think dependence on oil is bad, wait ‘til we’re dependent on food.”
But Williams was just getting wound up. The Senate leader then turned to the matter of children in Georgia who would be barred from college – or anything other than an underground future under SB 458. Said Williams:
”The Dream Act…I actually think the Dream Act, or a modified version of it, it would help. I’ve got kids in my schools that are five to 10 years old, just about the size of my daughter – they didn’t come here on their own. They’ve never been, they have no memory of where their parents took them from. And yet the federal government tells us we need to educate them through the 12th grade. And then we say, no, you can’t go through the university system.
“I don’t know how to fix that problem. We’re trying to fix it here. But it’s really a problem the federal government ought to fix. I think they ought to pass some version of the Dream Act.”
Williams was among the GOP majority that voted for SB 458. But before his speech, Williams had passed out an amendment that would have created a Georgia version of the Dream Act – which he later withdrew before it was formally entered into the record. Here’s the gist, from the document:
After his speech, I asked Williams why he withdrew the amendment.
“I would love to do this, but the federal law says, if you do this for anybody in the state — [if] you make this benefit available as a public benefit – then you have to make it available to everybody in the country,” the Senate leader said.
So any young illegal immigrant from any state in the U.S. would be eligible, Williams said. And that would have opened the door too wide, even at out-of-state tuition prices.
Those of you who dismiss Williams’ comments out of hand need to look at this piece from Politico.com:
President Obama leads all his Republican rivals among Latino voters, according to a new poll released Monday.
According to the latest national Fox News Latino survey, none of the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination poll above 14 percent in a head-to-head matchup against Obama. That’s a 17 point drop in support from John McCain’s 2008 share of the Hispanic vote, garnering 31 percent of the that group four years ago.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider