Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is being strongly criticized after he told a Hispanic student that he "presumed" she was an undocumented immigrant who came into the U.S. as a child. Addressing the topic of immigration at a University of Georgia forum Tuesday night, Deal reportedly looked at Lizbeth Miranda when he made his remarks. "There's a fundamental problem that can only be solved at the Congressional level and that is to deal with the issue of children, and I presume you probably fit the category, children who were brought here," Deal said, according to CBS 46.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is in the middle of a tough re-election fight, which is coinciding with some unresolved ethics allegations. Stories like these probably won't help.
Well, "presumptions" can be dangerous in this line of work.
In this case, the student at the University of Georgia forum quickly explained, "I'm not an illegal immigrant. I'm not," she said. "I don't know why you would have thought that I was undocumented. Was it because I look Hispanic?"
The governor, backpedaling, replied, "I apologize if I insulted you. I did not intend to."
Deal's spokesperson later said the governor was directing his comments to a different student at the time.
A video of the exchange is below, and while the camera angle isn't ideal, the audio is pretty clear. Even if we give the governor the benefit of the doubt on which student he was speaking to -- a contentious point, to be sure -- there's a substantive problem to keep in mind: Deal's eagerness to pass responsibility onto Congress is flawed.
It's true that the Dream Act, which used to be a bipartisan measure before the GOP's sharp turn to the right, would address many of the challenges facing young people who may have entered the country illegally as a small child, but who've nevertheless grown up in the United States and consider this country the only home they've ever known.
But as is evident in many states, policymakers don't necessarily have to wait for Congress to help Dreamers -- Deal could, for example, extend in-state tuition to undocumented students who've lived in Georgia for many years and would otherwise meet residency requirements.
To say the problem "can only be solved at the congressional level" is to avoid responsibility for policies that could be approved at the state level. What's required is political will, not federal action.