Biting Them Where It Hurts

There’s been a fair amount of publicity over the last few months about some of the baleful consequences of new immigration policies in the states, particularly in such Deep South states as Alabama and Georgia. Already, considerable damage has been inflicted on agricultural production as crops rot in the field, unharvested. And anyone living in the region knows that businesses catering to the Hispanic population have been hit hard as immigrants, documented or not, leave–or as Mitt Romney would put it, “self-deport”–feeling less than welcome.

That’s all hunky-dory with a lot of southern conservatives–often the most avid immigrant-bashers because Hispanics are visible enough to unsettle the natives, but not numerous enough to defend themselves politically–but an incident in Georgia this week showed that nativism can bite them where they actually feel the pain.

In the run-up to National Signing Day–the day, rivalled in the Deep South only by Christmas and Easter, when high school football players can sign scholarship agreements with colleges–the University of Georgia football team lost an recruit because he ran afoul of policies designed to keep the undocumented from attending state institutions of higher education. Mark Weizer of the Athens Banner-Herald explains what happened to offensive lineman Chester Brown:

Students who can’t prove they’re legal U.S. residents can’t enroll at the University of Georgia and four other state public colleges under policies adopted by the state board of regents in October 2010….

The new policy went into effect in the fall after a Kennesaw State University student, Jessica Colotl, was arrested in March 2010 following a traffic stop. She was slated for deportation, but immigration authorities agreed to hold off for a year to allow her to complete classes at Kennesaw State.

The regents policy now prohibits any public college or university from allowing illegal immigrants to enroll if the school had turned down any academically qualified applicants for admission during the two most recent academic years. It also requires admissions officials to verify applicants’ residence status.

The Brown family moved to the U.S. from Samoa in the mid-1990s.

Violence in Long Beach, Calif., prompted the family to move in 2004 to Hinesville, where Chester’s uncle worked in the military.

“When Chester was there growing up, a lot of kids that were Samoans and his age were shot and killed,” his father Siliga told DawgPost.com in his native tongue while Chester translated. “I didn’t want that to happen to my kids. I wanted them away from that fast life.”

Brown’s family swears he was born in the U.S. (which wouldn’t cut much ice with nativists, who dislike “anchor babies” as much as the undocumented) but don’t have the paperwork to prove it, so young Chester, whose skills were badly needed by the Georgia Bulldogs, will matriculate and play in some other state.

I bet more than a few football-mad Georgia GOP legislators are having second thoughts about their recent forays into immigrant-bashing–or are hearing about it from their constituents.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.