The bill, filed Thursday, also adjusts some identification requirements for applicants for public benefits laid out in last year’s tough law targeting illegal immigration, making some requirements stricter and loosening others.
The bill’s author, Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) and another sponsor, Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Friday. The third sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), declined to comment, referring questions to Loudermilk.
Last year’s law required any applicant for public benefits — which include food stamps and professional licenses, among other things — to provide a “secure and verifiable” document proving their legal presence in the country. Some agencies — including Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, which handles many professional licenses — had expressed concern the requirement would cause extra work for his staff that could delay the issuing or renewal of licenses.
The bill filed this week says applicants may submit their documents any time within nine months prior to the application deadline as long as the documents are still valid at the time the public benefit is administered. The bill also says that U.S. citizens renewing an application for a public benefit do not need to resubmit the documents each time they apply to renew a benefit. Applicants who are not U.S. citizens would have to submit the documents each time they apply.
Both these changes are in line with changes to last year’s law that Kemp has said he’d like to see, but a spokesperson said Kemp’s office is still reviewing the legislation and didn’t immediately have a comment Friday.
The new bill also clarifies a section in last year’s law that says the documents may be submitted in person, by mail or electronically, explaining that electronic submission includes “facsimile, Internet, electronic texting, or any other electronically assisted transmission.”
Last year’s law charged the state attorney general with coming up with a list of acceptable secure and verifiable documents. The list issued by Attorney General Sam Olens includes a passport issued by a foreign government. The new legislation says that foreign passports should only be acceptable if they are submitted along with valid federal immigration paperwork specifying that the person is in the country legally.
Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), who authored last year’s law, did not immediately respond to a phone call or email seeking comment about the proposed changes.
The bill also would bar illegal immigrants from all 35 of Georgia’s state colleges and universities, as well as the state’s 25 technical schools. The House Higher Education Committee held a hearing last month on a bill that would do the same thing, but has yet to vote on it. Similar legislation passed out of the committee last year but didn’t make it to the full House for a vote.
Already, illegal immigrants are effectively barred from the most competitive state schools by an October 2010 Board of Regents policy that prohibits any school that has rejected academically qualified applicants in the previous two years from accepting illegal immigrants.
That includes five Georgia colleges and universities: the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College & State University. Illegal immigrants may still be admitted to any other state college or university, provided that they pay out-of-state tuition.
The university system chancellor told committee members at last month’s hearing he believes the system’s current policies regarding illegal immigrants are adequate.