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Prior to his speech, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice greets guests on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 in the North Instructional Plaza at UGA in Athens, Georgia. During the event, Hice answered questions pertaining to immigration, gun control, cancel culture and voter integrity. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

On Wednesday, the University of Georgia College Republicans hosted House Rep. Jody Hice for their first in-person meeting since March 2020.

Hice gave a warm welcome to the audience of about 30 people as he traveled through the auditorium, shaking hands with audience members. COVID-19 guidelines were enforced by advising people to wear masks and socially distance throughout the event.

Currently, Hice represents Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, which includes parts of Athens-Clarke County. Earlier this month, Hice announced his campaign for Georgia Secretary of State.

Hice began the event by touching on issues pertaining to his position in Washington. Among them were his campaign plans and a meeting with former President Donald Trump. He also shared his thoughts on issues, such as the rise of cancel culture and the southern border.

Election integrity

Hice discussed HR 1, a bill introduced earlier this year which would expand access to voting, limit partisan gerrymandering and change campaign finance laws.

“The push for HR 1 is a devastating push. It has things like universal mail-in ballots, which in essence means that every state, all 50 states, would be required to send out live ballots to everyone on their voter registration files,” Hice said.

Georgia was a critical state for elections in the past year. Current Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified the presidential election three times as Republicans, including Hice and Trump, continued to deny the validity of the results.

Hice said that this is the very reason he launched his campaign — to try and fix the “horrible disaster” that was created in Georgia elections.

On March 25, Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 202, which revises elections and voting procedures. Among the sections, Section 5 removes the secretary of state from the position of chair of the election board. Instead, the State Election Board would be composed of a chairperson elected by the General Assembly, an elector elected by the Georgia Senate, an elector elected by the Georgia House of Representatives and a member from each political party to be appointed. Hice said he does not approve of that part of the bill and wishes “they hadn’t done that.”

“Election integrity is a huge thing and I believe that every citizen of America should have their voices heard, but also in an eligible and legal way as well,” said Madilyn Cox, social media director for College Republicans.

Rise of cancel culture

On Tuesday night, Hice met with Trump in Mar-a-Lago, a resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump almost immediately endorsed Hice after announcing his campaign for Georgia Secretary of State.

“This was basically a meeting for some individuals to meet with the president to say, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Hice said. The group spoke about how the Democrats are “pushing this thing too far.”

Hice praised Trump, calling him extremely funny, remarkable, extremely sharp and extremely intelligent. He said this was just an initial conversation that will be ongoing.

Hice believes Trump is another victim of cancel culture. On Wednesday, Trump’s daughter-in-law uploaded a video interview with him onto Facebook. The video was then taken down as part of Trump’s ban on their platforms. Facebook decided to ban Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

“It doesn't matter if it's good content or bad content, they are eliminating the person,” Hice said.

Hice feels as if Republicans are being left out of the debates both on the congressional floor and in committees. Democrats have taken a majority in both chambers of Congress, leaving Republicans with little space to voice opinions.

“We need to continue being a country where ideas are welcome. We're able to debate those ideas and work things out and discuss them. That type of thing really is not the world in which we're living, at least in Washington D.C. anymore, and that's very disturbing,” Hice said.

Hice said Georgia’s U.S. House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has been another victim of cancel culture. After several antisemitic, racist and xenophobic comments, Greene was removed from her assigned congressional committees.

Southern border

Under President Joe Biden’s administration, Hice said the southern border has gotten worse. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have released new information regarding the amount of unaccompanied children at the border and the media has compared it to the peak during Trump’s administration. As of February 2021, approximately 9,300 unaccompanied children were detained at the border. While in May 2019, approximately 11,500 unaccompanied children were detained.

“We're watching very concerning things happening on our border right now. I've made multiple trips to our southern border. I've seen it in very, very, very bad conditions,” Hice said.

An audience member asked if a compromise regarding the southern border could be arrived between Democrats and Republicans. Hice said he didn’t know whether or not a deal could be made.

“We do know that there's a ton of human smuggling taking place. We know there's a ton of drug smuggling coming across our border. We know these types of things — they're criminals that are coming across,” Hice said.

Following in Trump’s footsteps, Hice has strong opinions about the southern border. A recent research study has found that undocumented immigrants have a considerably lower felony arrest rate than documented immigrants and native-born US citizens. The report also found no evidence that undocumented immigrant crime rates have increased in recent years. The research report pulled data from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Former College Republican Chairman Ethan Pender said, “It's good to know that we have people like the Congressman fighting to secure the border while still allowing legal immigration.”

Hice voted against the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, which would provide undocumented immigrants with path to receive permanent resident status.