Judge Partially Blocks Georgia Immigration Law; Kansas Hearing Gets Emotional

 (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

A federal judge in Georgia permanently blocked the state from enforcing a key part of its sweeping immigration law, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The part in question would have punished those who transport or harbor undocumented immigrants or encourage them to come to Georgia knowingly.

Offenders would have faced imprisonment for up to 12 months and up to $1,000 in fines on their first charge.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash advised the state’s law enforcement about the directive.

Immigrant rights groups hailed the decision – saying it was a partial victory.

 “It really is a signal that laws like this really kind of belong to an approach to immigration that is increasingly behind us,” Omar Jadwat, the senior staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project told the AJC.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, who authored the law, told the newspaper he was happy that most of the law remained unchanged.

 “In light of all the legal challenges that have been mounted against HB 87,” Ramsey said, “we continue to be very pleased with the outcome overall.”

In another immigration case in the state of Kansas, a House committee hearing on a measure that seeks to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students was met by an emotional audience Wednesday.

The measure under consideration in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee would repeal the nearly 10-year-old statute that allows students who graduate from Kansas high schools and have lived in Kansas for at least three years to pay in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges, regardless of their residency status, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Kim Voth, a Wichita school counselor, said that before coming to testify before the committee, she spoke with one of her students who used the in-state tuition law to get an education degree and has since become a U.S. citizen and a teacher.

"I asked her what I should say today," Voth said, beginning to cry. "She got very quiet, then said, `Please tell them that my college degree changed my life."'

Fred Logan, of the Kansas Board of Regents, said more than 500 of the 630 immigrants currently accessing in-state tuition attend community colleges. He said the 2004 law treats students without legal status fairly.

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the repeal bill's chief proponent, argued that natives of foreign countries who follow the legal process of getting student visas to attend Kansas universities have to pay out-of-state tuition.

"I think that is an absurd reverse incentive," Kobach said. "If you follow the law, we're charging you three times more."

The biggest response from the crowded gallery came when Rep. Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita, ended a series of questions to Kobach.

"I think it's funny, Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you," said Victors, the lone Native American in the Legislature.

People in the gallery then applauded, which is rare in such hearings. The committee did not take action on the bill.

With reporting by The Associated Press.

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