When someone is willing to put their life on the line to help your cause, it is only right to offer them a hand up when they are in a time of need. Georgia did that when America withdrew its troops from Afghanistan as refugees who supported American troops and opposed Taliban rule were resettled in the state.
Now the Georgia General Assembly is considering a bill to help these refugees succeed in their new home.
House Bill 932 would waive the one-year residency requirement that typically applies to students who have moved into Georgia from out of state when it comes to qualifying for in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities.
The bill’s chief sponsor is Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock. He championed the bill Wednesday before the House Higher Education Committee.
“These refugees ... worked with our military, primarily in Afghanistan,” Cantrell told the committee, according to Capitol Beat News Service. “These folks want to be American and live the dream.”
Cantrell’s bill didn’t come out of nowhere. He chaired a legislative study committee last year that looked for ways to strengthen the state’s economy by optimizing how foreign-born residents — which make up 10% of the state’s population, according to Capitol Beat — contribute to it.
Cantrell told the committee the state has more jobs than people and that it makes no sense to put up “artificial limits to these people getting educated and becoming productive members of society.”
The bill appears to be one thing both Republicans and Democrats under the Gold Dome can agree is a worthwhile initiative. Atlanta Democrat Betsy Holland said it is a “common sense” solution.
There are several positives that go along with the legislation. Cantrell is right that the state should do what it can to remove guardrails that may prevent or delay people who want to learn, work and help out their new home from contributing. Help wanted and now hiring signs are still easy to find across the state. Georgia is still in need of workers, and anything that helps lower the cost of higher education to help students not be as burdened by student loans after they graduate is a good thing.
But this also goes beyond helping the economy. These refugees risked their lives, and the lives of their families, to help our soldiers fight an oppressive regime. The least we can do as a state is to help them start their new lives in America on the right foot.
We hope the entire General Assembly sees the economic and human value of this bill.