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House passes bill penalizing sanctuary campuses
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Forsyth County News

The Georgia House of Representatives is taking a no-nonsense stance when it comes to following President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, recently passing a bill to deter colleges from declaring themselves “sanctuary schools.”

House Bill 37 affects private post-secondary schools in the state and has garnered attention throughout Georgia.

The bill, which passed in the House on Wednesday with a vote of 112-57, states “private post-secondary institutions in this state shall not adopt sanctuary policies.”

Private colleges and universities that violate the statute by declaring themselves sanctuary schools could lose state funding, should the bill become a law.

HB 37 is sponsored by Rep. Earl Ehrhart, of District 36, Rep. Terry England, of District 116, and others.

As defined in the bill, a “sanctuary policy” means “any regulation, rule, policy, or practice adopted or administered by a private post-secondary institution which prohibits or restricts officials or employees of such private post-secondary institution from communicating or cooperating with federal officials or law enforcement officers with regard to reporting [citizenship] status information while such official or employee is acting within the scope of his or her official duties at such private post-secondary institution.”

The bill sends a message to certain schools, such as Emory University in DeKalb County, which toyed with the idea of declaring itself a sanctuary campus, that lawbreaking is unacceptable, Ehrhart said, addressing the House Wednesday during a presentation prior to the vote, which the Forsyth County News attended.

“It [means,] to put not too fine a point on it, [there is] no sanctuary from the law. Law breaking 101 is not an acceptable course in our universities [and] it’s not an acceptable example for those who are in our universities or society,” he said. “In this state, if you refuse to, or enable not following the law – you don’t respond to federal detainer warrants or federal legislation that may or may not be out there at the time – then the millions of dollars the state spends on your university will no longer be spent there. That includes grants, that includes scholarships.”

Ehrhart added the sanctuary trend has “been sweeping over our country,” in part due to what some see as the President’s hardliner immigration policy.

Perceptions that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, has escalated its immigration raids are also driving the sanctuary trend, though the concept is not a new one.

ICE has said the raids are nothing more than routine policy and are not out of the ordinary.

House Democrats largely opposed the bill Wednesday, saying if signed into law, it would affect “innocent bystanders” – scholarship recipients who are legal Georgia citizens.

To receive the state money – tuition equalization funding and HOPE scholarships – a student must provide proof of citizenship.

“Reasonable eyes may look at this bill’s intent as getting Georgia’s private colleges to follow the law and if they don’t, to withhold state dollars from those colleges,” said House minority caucus chairwoman Stacey Evans, of District 42. “But the flaw is, the punishment doesn’t follow the bad actor. The punished party is the innocent bystander – a Georgia student who must be a citizen and who must be a Georgia resident [to receive the money.]

“No undocumented student would receive any punishment from the state of Georgia under this bill. No administrator would receive punishment from the state of Georgia under this bill. The only ones to lose are our students.”

Having passed in the House, the bill will move to the Senate to be voted upon.