Originally created 11/26/05

Students fear consequences of bills on illegal immigration



ATLANTA - A month ago, Amanda Barnes read media reports about lawmakers holding an anti-immigration rally at the state Capitol.

"It nearly brought me to tears to hear about what people are saying that isn't true," said Ms. Barnes, a freshman at Kennesaw State University.

Returning to the same steps where state legislators outlined a package of bills intended to stem tax-funded services, the Atlanta-area student and president of Kennesaw State's newly formed Mexican American Student Alliance held another rally Friday afternoon to respond.

Professors and about 50 students from colleges including Kennesaw State and the University of Georgia met to hear words of caution about how lawmakers should address illegal immigration when the 2006 legislative session begins in January.

"The current legislation introduced in the Senate and the House of our state is severely flawed," said the Rev. Aquiles Ernesto Martinez, an associate professor of religion at Reinhardt College in Waleska, Ga. "It focuses on the law-enforcement-only approach and has not fully measured the devastating consequences this legislation is going to have in our state if it passes."

Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, is proposing measures that would penalize employers who hire undocumented workers and would cut several types of state benefits for immigrants who cannot prove they are legal residents of Georgia. Mr. Rogers also has a bill that seeks to deny a spot at any of the state's public colleges for illegal immigrants.

A separate bill in the House, HR 256, sponsored by Rep. Roger Williams, R-Dalton, is calling for a constitutional amendment that blocks all state services, including college enrollment.

Yuria Rivera, a freshman at Kennesaw State, said a crackdown on college enrollment for undocumented students could keep young people from becoming doctors, lawyers and teachers because of choices their parents made in coming to the United States.

Ms. Rivera, reading from an anonymous letter written by a classmate, said that many students want the chance to continue learning past high school.

"We, the undocumented students, deserve a quality education," she repeated from the letter. "No Child Left Behind - we are not the exception."