King cited state and federal statutes, OCGA 50-36-1 and 8 U.S.C. 1611, 1621 and 1623 that state that illegal immigrants are ineligible for state and local public benefits, which include post-secondary education. King, whose actions were prompted by the case of Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl, sent the requests to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on May 19.
King, the founder of the Dustin Inman Society, wants Regents schools to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement Program to verify the citizenship of students. Designed by the federal government, the SAVE Program checks the immigration status of noncitizens applying for federal, state and local public benefits and licenses. A spokesman for the GBI said Tuesday that under Georgia law, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation could not respond to requests from a citizen to open an investigation. The request, instead, has to come from a public official, like a district attorney, a sheriff, a superior court judge or a governing official. Representatives for ICE did not return phone calls in response to King's letters on Tuesday. Regents spokesman John Millsaps denied that the Board is breaking the law, and could not confirm whether the board will take up the issue at its next meeting, June 8 and 9.
"Current federal and state law do not preclude an individual from applying to college. Anyone may apply - and if the applicant meets the admissions requirements and is accepted, he or she may enroll," Millsaps said. "The Board provides in-state tuition only for Georgia residents. Undocumented students may still enroll but, like any other non-Georgian, must pay out-of-state tuition, which can be three times as much as in-state. The out-of-state tuition rate is set at the full cost of instruction."
That prompted King to ask, "Is the Board of Regents smarter than a fifth grader?"
"I am very, very disappointed as a citizen that I am the one who has to know, understand and take action on this," King said. "We need to be asking the question, how many real immigrants and American citizens have lost their classroom seats because of the violation in policy by our Board of Regents system?"
King also said he is prepared to file a civil lawsuit in state court against the Board of Regents, asking a judge to issue a temporary restraining order halting any admissions until the university system complies with the policy.
Gov. Sonny Perdue weighed in on the controversy Tuesday, supporting the Regents.
"The university's primary obligation is to educate students," Perdue said. "To expect them to be the immigration agents or the determinants of whether someone is here legally or illegally is really beyond their scope of work."
The governor also said he agreed that Colotl should be allowed to finish her studies.
"The balance of a humane society has some compassion element to that," Perdue said. Allowing Colotl to stay, he said "is not my decision to make, but I would not voice disagreement if that decision were made."
Colotl, an illegal immigrant, was stopped for a traffic violation on KSU's campus and arrested on March 30 for failure to provide a valid driver's license, it was discovered that she had also been paying in-state tuition since she enrolled as a freshman in fall 2006.