Please make calls to stop more anti-immigrant legislation!
HB 125 and SB 160 were originally supportable bills that fixed the paperwork problem created by the burdensome HB 87. The House hijacked both bills with provisions that would not allow a Passport to be used as valid stand-alone ID in Georgia and seeks to make it difficult or impossible for DACA recipients to get drivers licenses. The bills also have several other objectionable amendments including requiring proof of citizenship to get Homestead Exemption and Tax Credits (a new paperwork burden for county departments).
Do not believe descriptions of the bill as a simple tweaking to solve a paperwork processing problem…with the amendments it does much more damage to Georgians and our reputation. These two bills will be going back and forth between chambers all this week, so you can also call your legislators but the priority is to make calls every day this week to:
Gov. Deal (404) 656-1776
Lt. Governor Cagle (404) 656-5030
House Speaker David Ralston (404) 656-5020Message: “Please support ONLY the original versions of HB 125 and SB 160. Let’s not divide Georgia again by debating anti-immigrant proposals added to the bills.”
“Lucha por una educación que te enseñe a pensar, no por una educación que te enseñe a obedecer.”
This quote summarizes my experiences as a student at Freedom University. An undocumented immigrant worker and student, I was able to expand my pedagogical ideology and practice to horizons I never thought possible. Through competent instruction and contemporary and historically-fitting literature, Freedom University helped me in the process of creating and realizing my identity.
I came to this country with my mother, younger sister and uncle at the age of 9. During my first year in the public education system I made the A/B Honor Roll Academic Award. The principal of my school was so impressed by my achievement she decided to present my award to me during lunch period. The award consisted of a small paper egg with my name on it. In front of every student in the 4th and 5th grade, she talked about me for around 5 minutes; I understood nothing she said. I attended Cowan Road Elementary, Flynt Middle and graduated from Griffin High School, but I learned more during my two years at Freedom University than I did in my previous schools.
I used to think the discrimination, hatred and exclusion I experienced for being brown and speaking Spanish was unique to me. All of these things became commonplace after the World Trade Center in 2001. But after learning the immigration laws of this country since its foundation, it was obvious I had not been the first to experience discrimination based language or the color of my skin. Not solely immigration policies, but the very citizens of this country have a muddy history stemming from an original and adopted belief that whites are superior to every other human being.
Although not taught in the school-to-prison pipeline, Freedom University taught me that Chinese laborers in the 19th century proved this notion wrong. Xicanos and Blacks proved this notion wrong once again in the 20th century. Ella Baker, Malcolm X, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez, Guillermo Bonfil Batalla and Gloria Anzaldua proved to me that whites are not the owners of my destiny through literature and practices in their fights toward social and economic justice. All of them part of my Freedom University experience as I developed my critical thinking skills and analysis.
Through Freirian Praxis, the model of the class, my professors taught me and I taught them; not only inside the classroom, but as well as in our communities. It was education at its purest level: a two-way street where the student and teacher boundaries are dissolved and both parties learn from each other.
Recognizing and embracing my roots in Mesoamerica and New Spain is only the first step in the search for my real name. Freedom University was an essential catalyst in further developing this process and quenched some of my enormous thirst for knowledge. My name is Gustavo M., I am undocumented, unafraid and the proudest Freedom University alumnus.
By Miguel Martínez/Mundo Hispánico
Updates 03/01/12 (From Larry Pellegrini, GA RURAL URBAN SUMMIT):
SB 458 ALERT – College Ban Bill – It was a long day for the Assembly, unfortunately the Anti-Choice “Fetal Pain” Bill passed the House and surprisingly the Senate pulled the Charter Schools Constitutional Amendment from the calendar. It was almost 9pm when the last thing that the Senate Rules (Calendar) Committee did was put SB 438 on the calendar for floor vote on Monday, March 5. Read on for more info about the bill and what you can do.
#1-Make calls, send emails and if you can, please send faxes between now and Monday, March 5 before noon. There is no floor session until 10am Monday so most legislators will not be in their offices, but Thursday and Friday their staff will be in the offices. And even Saturday and Sunday most offices will receive faxes and take messages.
#2-Remember that the bill addresses two topics. A majority of the bill makes corrections to HB 87 flaws that involve bad wording on acceptance of “secure and verifiable” documents. A small but horribly damaging part of the bill adds “postsecondary education” as a public benefit for which no undocumented person may access. In addition, the bill removes the authority of the Chancellor and the Board of Regents to make policy regarding student acceptance.
#3-If this bill becomes law, NO public college or university would be allowed to enroll a student who cannot produce legal status documents. Those currently enrolled and paying out-of-state tuition will not be able to re-enroll.
#4-We hear that Monday the author will amend the bill to try to make it “softer” on some undocumented students BUT DON’T BE FOOLED. Although we haven’t seen the language yet, we believe it will in no way be a fair fix. We are still calling for a defeat of the bill unless they amend OUT all the sections that deny access.
#5-You can find all you need at ( www.legis.state.ga.us
, or see BELOW!
)Talking points and bill summaries have been posted as well as the videos of the committee hearing. But you can get the ACLU analysis at (www.acluga,org ) The excellent opposition comments of the University System Chancellor can be found at ( http://www.usg.edu/chancellor/speeches
#6- Don’t get shy now…make those calls and faxes and emails, and do all three if you can. Even if the bill passes the Senate, we still have a chance to defeat the bill somewhere in the House process. But let’s give it all we’ve got now and try to knock this down in the Senate!
Last week, the GA Senate Judiciary Committee vote along party lines to move SB458 forward despite tremendous opposition and moving testimony from those who opposed SB458.
SB458 would ban access to higher education to all undocumented students. University System of Georgia Chancellor Huckabee stated that he opposed SB458 and that the committee should not move it forward. Powerful testimony came from immigrant allies and undocumented students as well. Despite all of this, it moved forward.
However, during a procedural move to move the bill forward, there was a motion to pass the bill out of committee and there was a LONG hesitation from the GA Senators. No one wanted to second the bill to move forward. Once it was seconded, it moved forward along party lines, likely due to the presence earlier in the committee hearing of the Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R).
Senator Barry Loudermilk (R) left all explanations of the bill to his policy "expert", Donald Arthur King (DA KING) who is a convicted felon and associates openly with hate groups.
SB458 is an act of bullying against immigrant youth. Responsible adults must put a bully in his place, even when that bullying is a State Senator by the name of Barry Loudermilk (R). Stan up against bullying immigrant youth and say NO to SB458. Please call the Senators listed below and tell them to vote NO on SB458.
SB 458 DETAILS
Read details in the Bill SB 458 here:
For a fact sheet from the ACLU AND ALAAC, please visit these links:http://www.acluga.org/docs/HB-59legislativesummarysheet-2012.pdfhttp://aalegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/HB-59-policy-highlight2.pdf
Dear Friends of Immigrant Students in Georgia,
The truly awful House Bill 59
is not dead yet! We still need your help to guarantee that it doesn't move out of the House Higher Education Committee. This is the bill that would prohibit all 35 public universities and colleges as well as 26 in the Technical College System from admitting undocumented students, regardless of their academic credentials. Please call (at least one!) of the following legislators and let them know that adults and youth alike support our immigrant students' right to higher education!
SAMPLE SCRIPT: “Hi, I’m __________________ and I’m a Georgia resident and I hear the House is reconsidering HB59. I’m calling because I want you to know that I think this bill is against the principles of human rights. All children who attend K-12 in Georgia should have the right to apply to study at the post-secondary level in our state. Please do not let Georgia become a place where hatred motivates and sustains irrational and harmful legislation.”
You should also consider mentioning that immigrant families do
pay taxes and contribute to our state in many ways, both economically and culturally. Also, this bill would reintroduce a form of segregation to our school system -- which we've already tasted with the Regents' ban -- and negatively impact K-12 institutions that are preparing our young people to go on to the highest level of education possible. Please call and let these legislators know that there are Georgians mobilized against HB59!
Freedom Universityfreedomuniversitygeorgia.orgHouse of Representatives Higher Education Committee MembersRogers, Carl
R - Gainesville
Occupation - Insurance Agentcarl.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Office Dempsey, Katie M.
- Vice Chairman
R - Rome
Occupation - Volunteerkatie.email@example.com
- Office Carter, Amy
R - Valdosta
Occupation - Teacheramy.firstname.lastname@example.org
- OfficeHatfield, Mark
R - Waycross
Occupation - Attorney404.656.0109
- Office Knight, David
R - Griffin
Occupation - Certified Public Accountant404.656.7855
- OfficeMcBrayer, Tony
R - Tifton
District 153 email@example.com
Occupation - Small Business Owner404.656.0126
- Office Sims, Chuck
R - Ambrose
District 169 firstname.lastname@example.org
Occupation - Funeral Director404.656.7855
- OfficeHB59 TEXThttp://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20112012/108346.pdf
: (1) Rice, Tom 51st
(2) Harrell, Brett 106th
(3) Walker, Len 107th
(4) Ehrhart, Earl 36th
(5) Bearden, Timothy 68th
(6) Ramsey, Matt 72nd
Photo by Mundo Hispánico
By Laura Diamond
Reposted from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
After nearly two hours of heated testimony during a packed meeting, the House Higher Education Committee held off voting on a bill that would bar illegal immigrants from attending all Georgia public colleges.
Chairman Carl Rogers said Tuesday's meeting was designed to serve only as a hearing on House Bill 59, although that wasn't clear at the start. Rogers said he plans to meet with college leaders and others to look at adding flexibility to the bill. The earliest the committee could vote would be in two weeks, he said.
"I don't think we're ready, and I don't think the bill is ready," Rogers, R-Gainesville, said after the meeting. "It's a very hard issue. It's a very emotional issue."
The bill would prohibit illegal immigrants from enrolling in any of the 35 colleges in the University System of Georgia and the 25 colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia. Colleges would be required to run students' names through a federal database to make sure they are in the country lawfully. Only if they are would they be allowed to attend a public college.
Rep. Tom Rice, R-Norcross, who sponsored the bill, said it guarantees illegal immigrants don't take seats away from those who are here legally.
"I feel that students who are here without legal documentation should find opportunities elsewhere to get their education," Rice said.
While Rice and a couple of other speakers supported the bill, the majority at the meeting were against it.
Keish Kim, an illegal immigrant who graduated from Centennial High in Roswell in 2009, said she wants to be a lawyer but is in learning limbo. She said she was accepted to the state's most competitive schools, but couldn't attend because she couldn't afford out-of-state tuition.
"This is about dreams; it's about goals," Kim said as her voice broke with emotion. "I really hope that this state government doesn't stop and halt dreams."
The crowd applauded Kim, but they were subdued during much of the meeting. Rogers earlier warned them that security would oust anyone who acted out.
Dozens of students attended, sitting and standing silently along the back of the room. They wore scarlet U's to represent the stigma and denied opportunities "undocumented" students face.
The committee approved the bill last year, but it was not voted on by the full House. Rogers was not chairman of the committee at that time.
University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby urged the committee to vote against the bill and instead let the system follow through with new policies that went into effect this past fall.
Those policies include barring illegal immigrants from attending any college that has turned away academically qualified students. The affected colleges are the state's most elite: University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Health Sciences and Georgia College & State universities. Illegal immigrants may attend the other 30 colleges, but they must pay the higher out-of-state tuition rates.
Of the system’s 318,000 students, about 300 are "undocumented," Huckaby said. Students are classified this way if they don't produce documents to show they have a lawful presence. They may or may not be in the country legally.
Last year, the system had about 500 undocumented students. The decline shows the new rules are working, he said.
"I respectfully ask you to allow our policy to work to determine if it addresses your concerns," Huckaby said.
He noted that only Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina ban illegal immigrants from attending any public college. About a dozen states, including Texas, allow these students to attend and pay in-state tuition.
Graduating more students is one of the University System's key goals and will help Georgia prosper, he said.
"Even for those who are here through no fault of their own, it makes sense to me that we should educate them to the highest level possible," Huckaby said.
Rice said the University System's new rules are a first step, but that it's not enough. While he sympathized with students brought to this country illegally by their parents, he said they shouldn't take spots away from others.
"The fact of the matter is there are a lot of people who came here and were naturalized and went through the process and became citizens of this state and their kids deserve the same opportunity for that one seat that may be filled by somebody here illegally," he said.
By Thelma Gutierrez
and Traci Tamura
Originally posted at CNN.com
.Editor’s Update: In the hours since we first reported this story, there have been significant developments. The University Council at the University of Georgia voted to pass a resolution which opposes the Board of Regents policy passed last fall. The policy forbids undocumented students from attending five of its top public universities. It’s a symbolic win for supporters of academically qualified undocumented students who are banned from attending UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College and State University, schools that the Board of Regents say had admitted undocumented students in the last two years. Regents spokesman John Millsaps told CNN while the regents have no plan to revisit the issue, they are not preventing undocumented students from getting an education. Millsaps says there are 30 other public institutions in the University System of Georgia that they can attend. He said the regents passed the policy amid growing public concern that undocumented students were taking limited seats away from qualified citizens and legal immigrants. He emphasized the regents have no plans to change the policy.
Every Sunday, in an unmarked building, in an undisclosed location in the college town of Athens, Georgia, a group of students quietly gather in secret. They are aspiring professors, diplomats and engineers who have been banned from Georgia's top five public universities.
But here, in this donated space, it is safe to study. This place is called Freedom University
. It has one classroom and four professors, scholars who've taught at the likes of Amherst, Harvard, Emory and Yale, who are teaching here, on their days off, without pay.
Their students are undocumented. They have nowhere else to go and no one else to teach them.
The American Dream
Keish grew up in South Korea. She remembers the harsh education regimen in her home town of Seoul. Classes Monday through Saturday. After-class academic programs every day. Keish and her fellow students in Seoul were basically at school from 8 in the morning until 8 at night every day except Sunday.
It sounds like a much more ambitious education system than in the United States. So how is it that Keish's parents, who lived an upper-middle-class life in Seoul, her father earning enough money as a salesman to enable her mother to stay at home – how is it that such a couple would move to America with one thing in mind: their children's education?
"My parents wanted me to have the freedom to learn what I wanted to learn and to pursue my interests. To do whatever I want in any field. In South Korea, students are expected to go through their academics, graduate from college, and enter office life where it's safe," says Keish. "My parents wanted me to have more opportunity, they wanted me to have the American Dream," she says.
And so, when she was 10, with no English except the words "mom, dad, and maybe tiger," Keish and her family moved to America. A low-income apartment complex is where they settled down in an immigrant community outside Atlanta.
Her mother became a seamstress. Her father works at a flea market. They got tax I.D. numbers, which the government routinely gives to immigrants, and paid their taxes. CNN was shown the documentation for that.
They pushed their daughter to excel at school. Keish says it only took her about two years to become fluent in English. As for her undocumented status, she says her schools never found out. She lived with the secret.
Keish excelled in many aspects of school. She was not a straight-A student. B-plus was her average, she says. Her favorite subject was literature. She became captain of her high school debate team.
And she kept her secret. She was nominated to participate in the Governor's Honors Program, but without a Social Security number, fear prevented her from pursuing it.
She was chosen to participate in a model United Nations trip to New York. Again, fear of being caught kept her from flying. "Many, many missed opportunities," she says. "I was scared.The ban
Keish graduated from high school two years ago. The timing was bad. The U.S. economy was already in a terrible state. Then the State of Georgia Board of Regents would soon alter its admissions policy to prevent the admission of any undocumented student as long as there is a single academically qualified American applicant or legal immigrant who has been turned away.
The policy, in effect, prevents the admission of any undocumented students from being admitted to the top five public colleges in the state. A spokesman for the Board of Regents told CNN the policy change was not about money. Undocumented students actually pay three times more than what Georgia residents pay. The regents said it's an equity issue. Some argue that in these tough times, every available spot should be reserved for people who are in the United States legally.
The news was a blow to Keish. Her eyes welled up with tears as she remembered the moment she realized her American Dream was fading away.
"I fell into a deep depression. I hated myself," she says, "because I looked back on grades and scores and thought every night and every day that I could have tried harder. Maybe I should have gotten a 4.0 and then I could have gotten into a prestigious Ivy League school. I was ashamed I didn't try harder. I shut myself away from the world for a long time."
But she did not quit.The birth of a school
The moment the Regents passed the ban, a small army of students, scholars and community activists jumped into action. Lorgia Garcia-Pena, Professor of Spanish and Latino Ethnic Studies at the University of Georgia, was among the first.
She says they started with only an idea, "but no money, no building or supplies, we had nothing but our human resources and we had ganas." (Ganas means desire in Spanish). As word spread, "overnight the books poured in and people in the community said you can have your classes here," says Professor Pamela Voekel, a colleague of Garcia-Pena's.
Then they came up with the name, Freedom University, in honor of the Freedom Schools in the Deep South that were developed during the civil rights movement to educate people who were excluded from the education system because of segregation.
"We borrowed the reference with respect and as homage to the people who had the same courage as our students," says Bethany Moreton, a history professor.
Linda Lloyd, director of the Economic Justice Coalition in Athens, supports the new school. Her perspective is shaped by her memories growing up in the segregated South where she was one of six black students in an otherwise all-white elementary school. The black students often didn't have textbooks. She says she remembers the sting of discrimination – and feeling that quality education was only for a certain few.
While others say this restriction on illegal immigrants is a matter of equity and fairness for U.S. citizens, Lloyd sees it as "a civil rights issue because it reminds me of the same issues that African-Americans were struggling with in the '50s and '60s." Lloyd noted there was once a time when black people were not considered U.S. citizens.
As word spread about Freedom University, the founders began receiving calls from university students and others in the community who offered to drive the undocumented students from Atlanta to Athens, an hour and a half away. Others organized an online book drive. Then, offers started coming in from scholars around the world volunteering to lecture at Freedom University.
The school is only a month old. It has 33 students. .
Running a school for undocumented presents certain challenges. The students worry about law enforcement, about being found out, arrested and deported. They worry about harassment by anti-immigrant activists should they discover the location of the school. The professors say they do all they can to protect the students and alleviate their fears.
Professor Betina Kaplan says she has learned about perseverance and the hunger to learn. "Our students will not get school credit for the courses, and because they're undocumented and because of their immigration status, they will not be able to work legally afterward, but they continue to come."
"It's wonderful," says Keish, "they are there because they want to learn."
This Sunday, Keish and her fellow students will gather again, as they do every Sunday, as they wait for what they hope will be a change of policy from the Georgia Board of Regents. Today, a group of professors and members of the student government from the University of Georgia will ask the University's Council to go on record opposing the Regents' policy. The Council will decide whether to push for a change that once again allows undocumented students, who have the grades and the scores, to apply to the state's leading colleges.
Keish is not waiting. She is applying to colleges out of state. On her applications, she says, she is identifying herself as undocumented. She will not keep her secret any longer.
"This is my home," she says of America. "This is the land that nurtures my dreams, that shapes who I am right now."CNN's Michael Schulder contributed to this report.
Friends and allies,
Join us this Thursday at 3:30pm in the Grand Hall of Tate Student Center
to urge UGA's University Council to pass a resolution condemning the Regents' ban on undocumented students. See the Athens Banner Herald article on the initiative here
The executive committee stalled in putting this resolution endorsed by over 80 faculty members before the Council's full membership for many months, in spite of having followed its bylaws. Now, similar resolutions have already passed in the Student Government Association, the Graduate Student Association, and in the faculty senates of UGA’s two largest academic units, the College of Education and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. The discontent surrounding Regents Policy 4.1.6. can no longer be ignored. Demand that the University take a stand for all
We need our supporters in the Grand Hall on Thursday to prove that the ban is unpopular in the University community and that a UC resolution against it is far from overdue.
Allie, For Freedom University and Georgia Students for Public Higher Education
Listen in as Freedom University's own Bethany Moreton shares her take on the Board of Regents' ill-conceived ban on undocumented students!
By LEE SHEARER
Published Sunday, November 27, 2011, in the Athens Banner-Herald
The University of Georgia’s University Council will vote Thursday whether to ask the state Board of Regents to reverse a policy that requires UGA and four other Georgia universities to turn away undocumented immigrant students who apply for admission, no matter their academic credentials.
The council is a mostly elected group of faculty and administrators that advises the UGA president on academic policy and other subjects.
“(The Regents ban) represents a step in the direction of resegregation of public education in our state,” according to a petition the council’s executive committee received last week, signed by 80 UGA faculty members.
The executive committee put the item on the agenda for the full council’s next meeting, scheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
At least three UGA groups have already passed resolutions opposing the Regents policy, adopted last year after some state legislators threatened to enact laws that would prohibit admitting students who are not U.S. citizens or who have student visas.
The faculty senates of UGA’s two largest academic units, the College of Education and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, both have passed resolutions against the policy, which allows undocumented students to enroll in 30 state public colleges, but not the five that turn away academically qualified applicants: UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia College and State University, Georgia State University and Georgia Health Sciences University.
The UGA Student Government Association also voted recently to oppose the Regents policy.
The Regents ban specifically says undocumented students can’t enroll in colleges which had turned down any academically qualified applicants in the previous two years.
The Regents approved the policy last year after some state legislators threatened to enact laws barring undocumented students from enrolling at any public college.
Some of Georgia’s neighboring states have already passed laws that prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in public colleges, said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
Opposing the ban was an easy decision for the College of Education Senate, which makes its decisions by consensus.
The education senate is just backing up its students, the teachers and counselors who are protesting that their good students are now denied access to the state’s top public colleges, said JoBeth Allen, president of the College of Education Senate.
“We feel like they are the students of the teachers that we working with,” she said.
Many of the students affected by the policy grew up like any American child in Georgia, cheering on the Atlanta Braves and the Georgia Bulldogs.
“There’s a failed promise there,” Allen said. “People have been told that if they study hard and do well, they can be anything they want to be.”
The ban contradicts what they have been taught about the United States, Allen said.
GALEO’s Jerry Gonzalez hailed the university’s votes.
“I’m certainly glad to see that happening. The Board of Regents’ mission is to ensure increased access to higher education in the state. The Regents policy puts this state at the extreme end of denying access to students, and it’s contrary to their mission,” he said. “It’s not looking forward to where we ought to be. Most states are moving in the direction of enhancing access, rather than limiting it.”
By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press
Published Thursday, August 25, 2011, in the HUFFINGTON POST
ATHENS, Ga. — As college students return to campus in Georgia, a new state policy has closed the doors of the five most competitive state schools to illegal immigrants, but a group of professors has found a way to offer those students a taste of what they've been denied.
The five University of Georgia professors have started a program they're calling Freedom University. They're offering to teach a rigorous seminar course once a week meant to mirror courses taught at the most competitive schools and aimed at students who have graduated from high school but can't go to one of those top schools because of the new policy or because of cuts to state scholarship programs.
"This is not a substitute for letting these students into UGA, Georgia State or the other schools," said Pam Voekel, a history professor at UGA and one of the program's initiators. "It is designed for people who, right now, don't have another option."
The policy, adopted last fall by the university system's Board of Regents, bars any state college or university that has rejected academically qualified applicants in the previous two years from admitting illegal immigrants. That includes five Georgia colleges and universities: the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College & State University. Illegal immigrants may still be admitted to any other state college or university, provided that they pay out-of-state tuition.
The new rule came in response to public concerns that Georgia state colleges and universities were being overrun by illegal immigrants, that taxpayers were subsidizing their education and legal residents were being displaced. A study conducted by the university system's Board of Regents last year found that less than 1 percent of the state's public college students were illegal immigrants, and that students who pay out-of-state tuition more than pay for their education.
"What we're hoping is that people in decision-making positions will reconsider the policy," said Reinaldo Roman, another of the organizing professors. "It goes counter to our aims. We have invested enormous resources in these young people. It makes sense to give them a chance at an education."
For now the course will simply serve to expose the students to a college environment and challenge them intellectually. It will not likely count for credit should the students be accepted at another school, but the professors said they're seeking accreditation so credits would be transferable at some point in the future.
The five founding professors all work for UGA, but they stress that the program has no connection to the institution. UGA referred a request for comment to the Board of Regents. Regents spokesman John Millsaps said faculty members are generally free to do whatever they want with their free time as long as it doesn't interfere with their responsibilities as employees of the university system. But he said he didn't know about enough about the program to comment on this specific case.
Once the professors hatched their plan – which was suggested by an illegal immigrant community member who works with a lot of illegal immigrant teens – they reached out to professors at prestigious schools nationwide to sit on a national board of advisers. One of them is Pulitzer Prize winning author and MIT professor Junot Diaz, who calls policies barring illegal immigrants from state schools cruel and divisive. He said he's ready to help Freedom University succeed.
"Whatever they ask of me. I'll do everything and anything I can," he wrote in an email. "This clearly is going to be a long fight."
With professors donating their time and a local Latino community outreach center offering a space for free, the program has few costs. They've started an Amazon.com wish list asking people to donate textbooks for students and gas cards for volunteers who will drive students to and from class.
Dressed in a black fleece jacket and tan cargo shorts and carrying a black backpack during a protest rally Tuesday at UGA against the policy, 25-year-old Karl Kings looked like he could be headed to class. However, Kings says he's an illegal immigrant who was brought to the U.S. when he was a year old from a country in Asia that he declined to identify.
"Pretty much, I would be a Georgia boy except I wasn't born here," he said. "I grew up here my whole life."
After graduating from high school in suburban Atlanta in 2004, he dreamed of going to college but couldn't afford to pay out-of-state tuition. He's gotten by doing odd jobs, but has had to turn down some more stable or challenging job offers because they required proof of eligibility to work in the U.S. He was filling out an application for Freedom University at the end of the rally this week.
The program is currently taking applications, with the first class, American Civilization I, set to start Sept. 8. The five professors will rotate teaching the seminar course on their own time at an off-campus location. All qualified applicants will likely be accepted unless there are so many applications that space constraints force them to limit admissions, said Lorgia Garcia Pena, another of the founding professors.
Leeidy Solis,16, was brought to the U.S. illegally by her parents from Mexico when she was 2. A high school senior in Athens, she wants to become a veterinarian. She finds it hard to listen to her friends discuss where they're applying to college because she's not sure she will be able to go. She's looking into where she might get a grant or scholarship to pay for her education.
Her parents are thinking of packing up and heading back to Mexico. They are encouraging her to apply to college there and go with them. But she doesn't remember Mexico and all her friends and cultural experiences are here, so she wants to stay. She said she's definitely keeping Freedom University in mind.
"Even if they don't count it as a credit, at least we as students can experience what it's like to take a real college class," she said.