Georgia lawmakers will meet under the Gold Dome for the 2022 General Assembly in January, and that means a second chance for bills that haven’t crossed the finish line this year.

Immigration rights activists hope that a bill that would allow Georgia’s so-called dreamers – recipients of the Obama-era deferred action on childhood arrivals – to pay tuition fees more in line with other Georgian students, take a second look in 2022 the legislature receives.

“It’s obviously something that we need to look at as a state,” said draft law author, Dalton Republican Rep. Kasey Carpenter. “A well-trained workforce will be of paramount importance as we move through the 21st century. We have these kids that we’ve already invested in. It’s child’s play, but child’s play is not always the same as the law. “

Under DACA, people brought to the United States as children can live and work in the country without being deported, provided they have a clean criminal record. In 2020, there were nearly 21,000 DACA recipients in Georgia, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A federal judge in Texas banned the government from accepting new DACA filings in July, starting an ongoing battle with the White House.

DACA recipients are entitled to the same public education from K-12 as US-born Georgians, but when applying for college they must pay extra-state tuition fees, which can be up to three times what their classmates pay.

A new report from FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group, found that nearly 30,000 Georgians between the ages of 18 and 29 would benefit immediately from an increase in state tuition fees for all undocumented students and an additional 1,500 K-12 students who would be undocumented in benefit every year for the next decade when they graduate from high school.

Undocumented students graduating from a technical college would repay the state’s investments within 10 years, and those with bachelor’s degrees would repay them within 16 years through better-paying jobs, higher tax levies, and higher income power, the report said. State tuition fees for undocumented students could add up to $ 10 million to the economy each year.

Carpenter’s bill would be tighter and would only apply to DACA recipients. And although Carpenter originally intended students to pay the same as others, this was changed at the previous session by the House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee to allow universities to charge them between 100% and 110% of regular state tuition fees place.

Universities would also have to give priority to qualified domestic students who do not apply under this law, and schools could postpone enrolling DACA students until all applications from other students are either accepted, deferred, or rejected.

The revised bill also provides for exempt universities that have not admitted all qualified applicants in the past two academic years, which would exclude the most competitive colleges in the state, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Still, FWD.us estimates the bill would immediately benefit 15,000 students.

Jaime Rangel, a Dalton resident who works for FWD.us, urged the House of Representatives Study Committee on Innovative Ways to Maximize Global Talent to review the plan at the committee meeting Thursday.

“Twenty-one states have already implemented statewide coursework, and the Texas and Florida legislation is actually more open than the proposed legislation that Rep. Carpenter has,” he said. “It’s both a Republican and a Democratic problem, a problem that lawmakers want to solve together.”

Carpenter hopes Georgia lawmakers will come together this winter to move his bill forward, although he recognizes that it is not safe, especially in a pivotal election year when his Republicans are more inclined to have party-grounded legislation focused to play on conservative cultural issues.

“Politics is always a bit shaky in an election year, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “I have a feeling it will be an interesting year.”

But Carpenter said he felt pretty good about the odds of the bill. Businesses are hiring skilled workers, he said, and enrollments have declined at several colleges in Georgia. While the University System of Georgia increased its enrollment overall 2.4% between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020, the system’s nine state colleges saw enrollment drop an average of 7% during that time, both facts that could sell the bill more easily budget conscious conservatives, said Carpenter.

“If you spend money today to educate people, the state will get their money back later in the form of higher taxes,” he said. “It’s bread and butter Republican policy, invest a little for better returns on the road.”

“I’m always optimistic, man,” he added. “I feel like I’ll have a chance by day 40. So I feel pretty good about it. It’s good politics. And I think the more we educate people about it, let’s talk about things that we can control as a state, don’t let federal agencies control what they don’t control. We don’t have to solve federal problems, but we can make the most of the hands that are given to us as a state, and that is exactly what this law seeks to do.

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