A Georgia university president is under fire for allegedly granting in-state tuition to a student who is an illegal immigrant and for allegedly using taxpayer-funded resources to stop the student’s deportation process.
The controversy surrounds Jessica Colotl, a 21-year-old senior at Kennesaw State University. She is an honors student who enrolled at the school in 2006 as a political science major. She is also an active member of the Lambda Theta Alpha sorority.
In March her life began to unravel. Colotl was stopped by campus police and arrested on charges of not having a valid American driver’s license. Police ran a background check and determined she was in fact – an illegal immigrant.
According to an account in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her family snuck into the country from Mexico when she was 10 years old. Until now, the family’s immigration status had gone unnoticed.
“They never thought that this would ever happen,” Colotl told WAGA.
Undocumented students are allowed to enroll at Georgia universities but they must pay out-of-state tuition – typically three times as much as in-state. It seems, though, that Colotl was allowed to pay in-state tuition.
As a result of an agreement between local police and the federal government, Colotl was transferred to a detention center where deportation proceedings were launched.
That’s where the story gets a bit unusual.
KSU’s president, Daniel Papp allegedly intervened on her behalf. According to the AJC, the university released a statement that said Coltl was a student in good standing and a leader of several campus groups. He also asked that, within the letter of the law, she be allowed to return to the university to finish her education.
Last week, authorities decided to release her from custody and President Papp said she will be welcomed back to the university.
“She was granted a deferment to finish her education,” Papp said in a written statement. “This is great news for Ms. Colotl, her family and friends and for the KSU community. We are especially thrilled that she will be allowed to continue her studies here at KSU.”
However, not everyone is overjoyed at the news. Phil Kent, a spokesman for Americans For Immigration Control is demanding the KSU president be fired.
“President Papp ought to be fired by the regents of the university,” Kent told WAGA. “He’s undermined the rule of law.”
“Our colleges must not be turned into sanctuaries for illegal immigrants,” he said in a prepared statement. “Papp’s bleeding-heart actions are especially an insult to Georgia taxpayers and their children who hope to attend college yet are discriminated against in favor of illegal immigrants.”
However, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia told the AJC Colotl was admitted before the law about out-of-state tuition was enacted. Chancellor Erroll Davis told the newspaper that he believed the university had followed the law.
A Republican candidate for governor is making political hay out of the issue. Eric Johnson issued a statement calling for tougher rules for students who are in the country illegally.
As for Colotl’s family, they are troubled by the incident. Her mother, who does not speak English, told WAGA through a translator that the fair solution is to let her daughter finish her education and then return to Mexico.
Kent wondered “why didn’t this person go back to her home country and do the legal paperwork and come here and study legally?”