Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA — A group of young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children asked a court Thursday to instruct the Georgia university system’s Board of Regents to grant them in-state tuition.
The almost three dozen young immigrants, who have been granted temporary permission to stay in the U.S. under an Obama administration policy introduced in 2012, filed their request in DeKalb County Superior Court. Being denied in-state tuition causes immigrant students to have to pay the much higher out-of-state rate, which is nearly impossible for some and substantially affects their financial futures, the lawsuit says.
The Georgia university system requires any student seeking in-state status for tuition purposes to provide verification of “lawful presence” in the U.S. The Regents have said that students with temporary permission to stay under the new program — known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA — do not meet that requirement. But the Regents’ policy does not define “lawful presence,” the lawsuit says.
The Board of Regents does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman John Millsaps said in an email.
The program allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to obtain work permits for two years, which then are eligible for renewal. To qualify, they must show that they came to the U.S. before they turned 16 and were 30 years old or younger when the policy was announced on June 15, 2012. They must also have lived in the U.S. continuously since 2007, and either be in school, have graduated from high school or served in the military. And they can’t have a serious criminal record or pose a threat to public safety or national security.
The Department of Homeland Security considers people who have qualified for the program to be lawfully present, according to a fact sheet on the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of DHS.
For that reason, the lawsuit argues, program participants who otherwise meet residency requirements should be eligible for in-state tuition.
“Securing in-state tuition for these DACA Recipients, who are lawfully present in the United States and entitled to this benefit, is our goal and we are honored to be by their side seeking to achieve it,” said lawyer Charles Kuck who is representing the young people.
Policies on allowing students in the country illegally and those accepted into the deferred action program to pay in-state tuition vary from state to state.
Georgia has long prohibited students who are living in the country illegally from paying in-state tuition.
Those in the country illegally also are effectively barred from the most competitive state schools by an October 2010 Regents policy that prohibits any school that has rejected academically qualified applicants in the previous two years from those here illegally.