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Perdue, Baker look other way at misdeeds

Understandably, elected officials are not often enthusiastic about delving into the official conduct of fellow public servants. If they were, Gov. Sonny Perdue might quickly become tired of answering embarrassing questions from his peers about everything from customized tax benefits to shaky retirement systems.

Or Attorney General Thurbert Baker might become a pest demanding detailed explanations of legislators' outside income and ignored environmental-law violations.

But Republican Perdue and Democrat Baker are fine team players. They don't ask, and they don't tell. If they did, the governor or the attorney general might have wondered aloud why federal officials from both parties have let us down so completely on guarding our borders and protecting the integrity of citizenship.

Sonny and Thurb might even have inquired why their pals on the state Board of Regents decided long ago to treat illegal aliens just like Georgia kinfolk. Of course, good team players would never be so rude, and we respect their wishes to remain tranquil and polite on such matters.

So we're volunteering to help do their jobs, and ask a few questions on touchy subjects such as 1) rewarding lawbreaking college students and 2) evaluating the moral fiber of the people selected to govern our state-financed university network.

Let's begin with easy questions.

1. Georgia has routinely granted low-cost in-state college tuition to some students who are not from Georgia and amazingly cannot prove their legal residency. However, other students who can prove their residency are penalized.

For instance, if a youngster from Alabama wants to attend Georgia Tech and shows up with absolute proof that his home is in, say, Dothan or Montgomery, he's out of luck. Georgia discourages him from crossing the Chattahoochee. The Peach State demands that he pay sky-high out-of-state tuition.

On the other hand, if a child from faraway Djibouti sneaks into the state illegally with his parents and can't prove where he's from, Georgia colleges - until now - have welcomed him like homefolks. He is rewarded with low in-state tuition. That's mighty hospitable, but why do illegal refugees from Djibouti receive better treatment than straight-up boys from 'Bama?

2. Six months ago, the Board of Regents was served with an official legal opinion stating that the Georgia University System cannot lawfully offer in-state tuition to persons who reside in the United States illegally.

Why are our revered regents just now getting around to eliminating tuition breaks for illegals? And why are fugitive criminals allowed to enroll under any circumstance?

3. Georgia is known for its stern and merciless attitude toward the criminal class. So why did it take a complicated legal opinion to state the obvious?

Georgia's colleges and universities should not reward lawbreakers with goodies thought to be reserved for law-abiding residents. After all, we're not recruiting football players here.

4. Now tell us again, in fewer than 100 words: Why in heaven's name would any college president, provost or even lowly registrar believe, under any circumstances, that giving federal fugitives a break on college tuitions is a good idea? Why did not one responsible official blow the whistle and shout, "Hey, we're breaking the law and aiding and abetting lawbreakers?"

Surely, their silence on the matter did not relate to government funding based on student populations - or did it?

5. Have the regents offered similar tuition advantages to other outlaws, such as gem smugglers, underage beer drinkers or sports bettors? How about extraterrestrials? How do we treat beings from outer space that show up in Athens or Statesboro or even Kennesaw and Valdosta without proof of origins?

Don't scoff. Visit a couple of our campuses. You'll see. They're everywhere.

Now for the second part of the test, reserved specifically for officials assigned to carry out our laws. This won't take but a jiffy.

1. Do you believe a return to tarring and feathering might be justified for you and other public officials who make a mockery of their oath to guard the public treasury and who sneer at the Georgia constitutional provision prohibiting state-sponsored gratuities (e.g. cut-rate tuitions) for anyone, including illegal aliens?

2. Do you believe that failure to enforce immigration laws and to protect our borders should be an impeachable offense, and that persons - even those at the highest levels - who willfully refused to enforce those laws should be removed from office?

Syndicated columnist Bill Shipp writes on Georgia politics. E-mail him at bshipp@bellsouth.net.

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