Almost from the moment it was enacted in October 2010, the University System of Georgia's policy for admitting illegal immigrants have been a magnet for criticism, from students, faculty and outside groups alike who have opposed the restrictions in a kind of proxy war in the broader fight over immigration policy across the country. Now, though, opponents may have stumbled into their best argument yet: The policy is costing Georgia potential football players.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Chester Brown, a 6-foot-5, 340-pound offensive lineman from Hinesville (Ga.), committed to the Bulldogs in July, but he confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and several other media outlets late Monday night that he was withdrawing his UGA commitment "for personal reasons," declining to elaborate.
However, a variety of people with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed to the AJC on Tuesday that Brown's change of heart was because his admissions application to UGA was rejected because of a controversial Board of Regents policy that was adopted in October 2010.
Brown's principal at Bradwell Institute, Scott Carrier, said federal privacy laws prevent him from discussing Brown's case in detail. But he did say that it was an "immigration-related issue" and that the school has "not given up" on helping Brown realize his dream of attending UGA.
There are two relevant policies in question. One of them, Policy 4.1.6, effectively bars illegal immigrants from admission:
A person who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any University System institution which, for the two most recent academic years, did not admit all academically qualified applicants (except for cases in which applicants were rejected for non-academic reasons).
The other, Policy 4.3.4, redundantly requires the university to "verify the lawful presence in the United States of every successfully admitted person applying for resident tuition status," which is likely where Chester Brown ran into a thicket of red tape: Both of his parents are Samoan immigrants (that is, from the Independent State of Samoa, not American Samoa), and though Brown's mother insists he was born in the United States — and is therefore a U.S. citizen — he apparently hasn't been able to provide documentation to prove it. Per Carrier, "Some things slipped through the cracks that could have prevented this had they been handled earlier."
Make no mistake: Brown wants to be at Georgia, badly enough that he reportedly had the date of his verbal commitment to coaches (July 15, 2011) tattooed on his arm. Georgia needs Brown, too, to help shore up a frighteningly thin depth chart on the offensive line. As of earlier this week, though, he was reportedly fielding interest from Syracuse, Tulane and Central Florida, among others, and will probably end up at one of those destinations.
Too bad he's only rated as a three-star prospect. If he had five, here's guessing the regents would toss the policy onto a bonfire in front of the administration building and raise the bar for him tomorrow.