August 26, 2014

Gov. Nathan Deal Presumes UGA Immigration Activists Are Undocumented

Deal web.jpg

Photo Credit: Blake Aued

Gov. Nathan Deal speaks at an Athens GOP meeting earlier this year.

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.

Although Deal apologized after Miranda spoke, campaign spokesman Brian Robinson said he was referring to Carver Goodhue, who is white, as presumably being undocumented and apologized for any confusion as to whom he was speaking. Miranda said Deal was looking at her, and the other students said they thought he was referring to all four of them.

The students—Goodhue, Miranda, Preethi Raja and Kevin Ruiz—said they're members of the UGA Undocumented Student Alliance. All four said they're UGA students and not undocumented, and they're all listed as students on the university website—so UGA has verified their citizenship or legal residency.

Goodhue said afterwards that Deal gave a "pretty typical response" and seemed to be passing the buck. Raja added that he talked a lot about jobs and job skills, but undocumented young people are falling through the cracks because it's difficult for them to get a higher education.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter's campaign manager, Matt McGrath, weighed in soon after.