Georgia lawmakers plan anti-'sanctuary campus' legislation

- Several state lawmakers are already looking into how best to discipline universities that try to declare "sanctuary" status.

The issue first came to light last week when Emory University President Claire Sterk wrote a letter to the Emory community responding to a petition from students, faculty and staff requesting the university consider becoming a "sanctuary campus" in light of the presidential election results.

President Barack Obama's administration started Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in 2012.  The policy gives temporary deportation relief to illegal immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.  Some believe President-Elect Donald Trump will reverse DACA. 

"This is not about Emory University or Agnes Scott, who I understand is also talking about sanctuary campuses, it's about following the law," said Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs.  "You don't get to pick and choose which laws you're going to follow."

Ehrhart serves as the Chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee, under the House Appropriations Committee and helps craft the budget each year.  He explained that pulling state funding for "sanctuary" schools could be an effective deterrent. 

"What we're talking about is millions of dollars.  You've got the tuition equalization grants, you've got the HOPE scholarship dollars, you've got Georgia Research Alliance funds--those are millions.  You're talking about hundreds of millions if you're talking about federal grants and NIH grants and those types of things.  So, it's a significant consequence," Rep. Ehrhart said.

In a statement to FOX 5, Emory University said they are reviewing the petitioners' request to become a "sanctuary campus:"

"Emory follows all federal laws and policies and will continue to do so. As a private institution, Emory is using private, non-governmental resources to offer need- and merit-based university scholarship support to highly qualified undocumented students who meet Emory’s academic requirements and who are registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by the federal government."

Emory University’s administration received a petition from a group of students, faculty and staff. The petition outlines concerns arising from the possible elimination of DACA. Emory administrators are evaluating the petition in an inclusive process to determine how best to serve those in our community whose immigration status may put them at risk. 

"We believe there is much we can do at Emory by working together and in partnership with other organizations and our elected officials to help all of our community members flourish.

"You could take that either way," said Ehrhart of the statement.  "I'm going to take it that they're going to follow the law--take them at their word that they're going to follow the law."

The legislative session will begin on January 9.

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