ATLANTA - - Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Johnson fired another volley today at the University System of Georgia for not agreeing to verify the citizenship of all of the 300,000 students attending the state's 35 public colleges - - this time for quibbling over the costs.
Earlier in the week he had called on the system to check after a campus traffic stop revealed that Kennesaw State University junior Jessica Colotl was an illegal alien. She had been admitted to the school before the University System began asking applicants their citizenship status two years ago.
Today Johnson responded to a Morris News Service story that quoted Chancellor Erroll Davis as saying spending $25 to check the citizenship of every student would total the salaries and benefits of 20 professors.
"If you ask this University System 'is it worth 20 professors to check the backgrounds of students?' I don't think you'll get too many yeses," Davis said Tuesday.
Johnson countered today that the cash-strapped system could use inexpensive means to verify citizenship.
"This is a typical bureaucratic response. First and foremost, we cannot afford to simply ignore the law, and it is unacceptable to brazenly dismiss the responsibility of enforcement," Johnson said. "Furthermore, it is beyond the realm of belief that it would cost $25 per student to verify citizenship."
Asking to see an applicant's driver's license, passport or student visa would cost little, he said, adding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services charges just 50 cents per name run through its database in the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program. SAVE was created to provide verification for state and federal government agencies wanting to identify the status of beneficiary applicants.
Immigration has grown as a political issue in recent years as the immigrant population has swelled. It became more potent with the recent enactment of a law in Arizona that allows police officers there to check the citizenship of anyone they suspect of being an alien.