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Nathan Deal's run-in with immigration activists at UGA

Gov. Nathan Deal was in Athens speaking to College Republicans on Tuesday when four students stood up to question him about the Board of Regents policy that bans undocumented immigrants from attending the University of Georgia.

The four-minute video of the encounter, courtesy of Flagpole's Blake Aued, gets testy around the 1:55 mark, when Deal addresses a white student named Carver Goodhue, who questioned the governor's position on the ban.

"There is 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 ..."

That's when another student named Lizbeth Miranda, who was standing near Goodhue, interjected.

"I don't. I'm not an illegal immigrant. I'm not undocumented. And I don't know why you thought that I was undocumented. Is it because I looked Hispanic?"

As the crowd murmured its displeasure, the governor apologized.

"You made the statement. You stood up, so I apologize. I apologize if I insulted you. I did not intend to."

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said he spoke to the governor late Tuesday to try to pin down what happened. He said Deal was aiming his comments at Goodhue when the three other students stood up.

"He was very polite and responded to any confusion," said Robinson. "But he was trying to ask questions. And he wasn't getting any response. He was not talking to Miranda."

After seeing the video on Wednesday, Robinson added: "The video eviscerates the inflammatory way it was presented by Democrats last night. And it shows the governor being very polite and trying to have a policy-based conversation. This is just a Democratic stunt."

Here's the Athens Banner-Herald's account of the start of the interaction:

“Gov. Deal, you spoke about protecting the HOPE Scholarship and you're a supporter of education, but why do you deprive undocumented immigrants who've lived here their entire lives from the right to come here and attend school with all of us?” asked Carver Goodhue, who stood in the audience of more than 100 along with supporters Kevin Ruiz, Preethi Raja and Lizbeth Miranda.

Deal argued there is no effective way, at least not at the state level, to help the would-be students who want to attend classes at UGA and other state universities but are barred from doing so by a four-year-old Board of Regents policy. And anyway, he said, Georgians wouldn’t support revoking the measure.

Flagpole's Aued was also in the room, and here's his take of the video:

The video opens with Carver Goodhue, who is white, asking Deal, "why do you deprive undocumented immigrants who've lived here all their lives the right to come here and attend school with us?" The last few words should have tipped Deal off that Goodhue is a UGA student and, thus, a legal U.S. resident.

"It is really something that can only be dealt with by the federal government at the congressional level, dealing with DREAM Act children, which I presume that maybe you are," Deal replies. The DREAM Act is a bill that would allow undocumented young people who attend college a path to citizenship.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.