Last Tuesday was a tale of two Marcos.
I wrote about the first Marco last week. He is a bright, 16-year-old son of illegal Mexican immigrants enrolled at DeKalb Early College Academy. A “dream” kid brought across the border when he was 8 years old, awarded provisional legal status while Congress allegedly sorts things out.
DECA is an academic boot camp for kids whose families have never sent anyone to a university. The program crams four years of high school into two. Then the students are shipped to Georgia Perimeter College. At age 18, they emerge with not only a high school diploma, but an associate’s degree.
It’s a good deal if you have the drive and intelligence.
This month, other members of Marco’s DECA class paid a nominal $300 or so for 16 weeks of instruction at GPC. His bill was closer to $5,000 because of the Board of Regents’ policy — adopted four years ago at the Legislature’s insistence — that students who are illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition.
Marco was able to come up with $2,000 from a summer job, which allowed him to take two classes — half of a standard course load. This struck me, and many of you, as a sinful waste of human potential. And thanks for those emails.
Apparently, Rob Watts, the interim president of Georgia Perimeter College, felt the same way. We’re told that, upon reading last week’s column, he asked his staff to find a path for Marco.
We do not know this for sure because Watts doesn’t want to talk about it. Instead, on Tuesday, GPC’s official spokeswoman called with a dry-as-dust statement that Marco had been assisted with private cash from the Georgia Perimeter College Fund, just as any other student might be.
Nothing to see here. Keep moving, she might have added.
The acknowledgement from Michael Thurmond, the superintendent of DeKalb County schools, was likewise vague: “I’d like to thank the Georgia Perimeter College Foundation for making it possible for one of our young scholars to continue his education without interruption.”
Neither institution used the phrase “illegal immigrant” or “undocumented” or “dream kid.”
It is a moot point with Thurmond. His public school system is required to educate all children, no questions asked. With Georgia Perimeter College, it is quite the opposite.
I’m guessing here, but in the current climate, a public Georgia university helping out a “dream” kid probably falls into the “no good deed goes unpunished” category.
And it was a good deed. Don’t take my word for it. Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have decreed that doing well by children who were carried into this country, with no say in the matter, is a moral mitzvah.
But an actual discussion about Marco and 20,000 or so kids and young adults like him in Georgia might have been considered an act of rebellion, and so the college chose to say as little as humanly possible.
Had GPC officialdom seen Gov. Nathan Deal at the University of Georgia later that evening, the decision to stay mum would have been confirmed. When confronted with the topic of “dream” kids by a group of students, the governor declared his hands tied. Dropping the out-of-state tuition requirement would prompt a Republican revolt, Deal implied.
“If it were overturned, it would be a huge concern for many citizens of our state,” the governor said.
Which brings us to the second Marco of this story. He is from Florida. His last name is Rubio, and he may be a Republican candidate for president of the United States in 2016.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was in Atlanta on Tuesday for some private meetings, but a day earlier had had his own public run-in with a group of “dream” kids, who chided him for throwing in the towel on immigration reform last year.
They had talked about their “right” to remain in this country, he said. “They’re getting terrible advice. It’s one thing to appeal to America’s morality — there is no right to come here illegally,” Rubio said.
Nonetheless, the Florida senator said he remains a champion for “dream” kids in the U.S. Senate, which is likely to be ruled by Republicans come January.
I asked Marco from Florida whether Marco from DeKalb County and other “dream” kids had anything to fear from a GOP-led Senate. Rubio said no and elaborated.
“Of all the group, I think they’re the ones that generate the most sympathy among the American public. And the American public will be willing to do something about it — I believe that,” the senator said. “But not until illegal immigration is under control. I’ve learned that the hard way in the last year and a half.”
So there you have it. We know that “dream” kids are regular human beings, just like us. We can extend them a hand in private if we choose.
We just can’t make it a public affair until — well, until.