House Sends ‘Sanctuary’ Bill to Senate

A bill that would cut state funding for private colleges that adopting the “sanctuary policy” designation and prohibiting school officials from complying with law enforcement passed through the Georgia House of Representatives Feb. 22 by a vote of 115 to 55.

H.B. 37 will move to the Republican-controlled Georgia Senate for a vote, the final step before Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal can sign the bill into law. Sponsored by State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), the bill aims to ensure that colleges comply with state and federal immigration laws.

Emory receives state funding, including the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarship and tuition equalization grants, both of which are awarded to Georgia residents, according to Emory’s Office of Financial Aid. University administration declared support for its undocumented students, but said that Emory is not a “sanctuary campus.” On Jan. 18, Sterk released an open letter outlining initiatives designed to support undocumented students, including continuing financial support and creating a student organization that advocates for undocumented students.

Ehrhart characterized opponents of the bill as “sensitive snowflakes” in an interview with The Athens Banner-Herald.

“I don’t really care to hear protestations of discomfort or fear,” Ehrhart said to the Banner-Herald. “My admonition to those snowflakes is: I’ll be more than happy to provide the pacifiers in the next budget.”

In response to the House’s passage of the bill, Freedom University Georgia, a nonprofit that provides resources to undocumented students in Georgia and has supported the movement to designate Emory a “sanctuary campus,” released a Feb. 22 statement on Facebook.

“Undocumented students are not snowflakes,” the statement read. “They are … quite familiar with the injustices and hardships of this world. True cowardice is targeting and punishing young people for daring to learn.”

The group encouraged readers to contact University President Claire E. Sterk to urge her to designate Emory a “sanctuary campus.” The Emory Sanctuary Coalition, which requested a “sanctuary campus” designation for Emory multiple times since late January, shared the post on its Facebook page Feb. 22.

While the “sanctuary campus” term has no legal definition, Emory Sanctuary Coalition members and 221 faculty members called Sterk to adopt the designation in support of Emory’s undocumented students. In addition to the “sanctuary campus” label, the Coalition demanded Emory promise lawful non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities, provide need-based financial aid to undocumented students regardless of whether they have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, and issue “full support” of its undocumented students and students from mixed-status families.

University administrators released a Jan. 18 statement announcing that Emory would not label itself a “sanctuary campus” after receiving a Nov. 20 petition with more than 1,500 signatures from the Emory community requesting the designation. In a Jan. 31 statement, Sterk called the label “counterproductive” and “[lacking] substantive meaning for policy and practice.”

Ehrhart and the Coalition did not respond to multiple requests for comment.