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Georgia Senate passes bill limiting illegal immigrants' access to higher education

The Georgia State Senate [official website] passed a bill [SB 485, materials] Monday that would ban illegal immigrants from state colleges and universities. The bill was approved with a 34-19 vote [roll call vote]. According to the bill's sponsor, Senator Larry Loudermilk (R), it is not about education [AP report], but on preventing taxpayer dollars from benefiting those persons in the country illegally. Illegal immigrants' access to private institutions is not affected, and attendance in some state colleges and universities is still permitted by paying out of state tuition rates. South Carolina is currently the only state that prohibits state colleges and universities from admitting illegal immigrants. The bill also aims to clarify requirements for individuals seeking public benefits, such as food stamps and professional licenses. The bill now heads to the House for passage. A Georgia House committee had previously discussed a bill banning illegal immigrant's access to higher education, but members did not vote on that bill.

Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] heard arguments in a challenge to illegal immigration legislation recently passed in Alabama and Georgia, but chose to defer its ruling [JURIST report] until after the US Supreme Court [official website] rules on a pending challenge to the controversial Arizona immigration law [JURIST news archive]. The Arizona immigration law [SB 1070, PDF] has had a polarizing effect since its passage. Similar legislation has passed in Utah, South Carolina and Indiana [JURIST reports]. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in December to determine whether Arizona's controversial immigration law is preempted by federal law [JURIST report].

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