Talk about awkward.
Several reports out of Georgia are sharing the account of a rather tense moment between Georgia governor Nathan Deal (R) and immigration activists Tuesday night during an event hosted by the University of Georgia College Republicans.
Reporter Blake Aued, who attended the event, live-tweeted the following during Deal’s speech about whether or not the University of Georgia should lift a ban allowing for undocumented students to attend the university:
— Blake Aued (@BlakeAued) August 26, 2014
Aued followed up with a story explaining what exactly happened:
Four University of Georgia student activists confronted Gov. Nathan Deal during a speech on campus Tuesday night over the state Board of Regents policy prohibiting undocumented immigrants from attending UGA.
During his response, Deal said, “I presume that you are” undocumented.
“I don’t know why you thought I was undocumented. Is it because I look Hispanic?” one of the students, Lizbeth Miranda, told him, prompting boos from the audience at a UGA College Republicans meeting.
“I apologize if I offended you,” Deal said.
Deal said that many Georgia citizens would be concerned if the Board of Regents overturned the ban, and that immigration is an issue that can only be addressed by Congress. He said Congress can’t deal with the issue because it keeps getting “wrapped up in amnesty.” His answer drew a standing ovation.
Aued’s story also included tweets from Deal supporters, including a spokesperson for the Georgia governor, who claimed that Deal was directing his answer to Carver Goodhue, a white student who stood with the other three students at the event.
@BlakeAued When you have four students standing up at once sounds like you have a Democratic student set up.
— Brian Robinson (@LordTinsdale) August 27, 2014
— Bryan Thomas (@brythomas) August 27, 2014
In addition, Aued confirmed that all four students were UGA students, none were undocumented and that they were all part of the Undocumented Student Alliance at UGA.
One Deal supporter at the event tweeted a photo of the four students.
— Sarah Young (@sarahyoung1992) August 26, 2014
One other local story chronicled additional comments Deal shared with the four students:
“Gov. Deal, you spoke about protecting the HOPE Scholarship and you’re a supporter of education, but why do you deprive undocumented immigrants who’ve lived here their entire lives from the right to come here and attend school with all of us?” asked Carver Goodhue, who stood in the audience of more than 100 along with supporters Kevin Ruiz, Preethi Raja and Lizbeth Miranda.
Deal argued there is no effective way, at least not at the state level, to help the would-be students who want to attend classes at UGA and other state universities but are barred from doing so by a four-year-old Board of Regents policy. And anyway, he said, Georgians wouldn’t support revoking the measure.
“It can only really effectively be dealt with by the federal government at the congressional level in dealing with the DREAM Act children, which I presume maybe you are,” Deal said. “The policy of requiring that you be a legal state resident is one that’s been in place for a very long time, and I think that you would find that it would be a policy if it were overturned it would be a huge concern for the residents of our state. And that’s why I think the Board of Regents has continued to require that.”
Goodhue pressed on, and Ruiz chimed in with his own points, to which the governor asked, “Let me ask you this, can you give a Social Security Number?”
Maybe not, Ruiz said, but he and other detractors of the Board of Regents policy argue academically qualified students who have been lifelong Georgia residents should have the same rights to an education as their United States-born counterparts.
“It’s an issue that I hope we will continue to press with Congress,” Deal said. “If it were a stand-alone issue, it could be passed, but every time somebody suggests we deal with the DREAM Act children, it gets wrapped up in amnesty, and when amnesty gets involved in immigration reform it condemns itself at the federal level.”