In-state tuition for illegal immigrants?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Illegal immigrants are required to pay out-of-state tuition to attend Georgia’s colleges and universities, even if they have graduated from a state high school. Moreover, such students are denied admission to certain schools if those schools have turned down academically-qualified U.S. citizens the past two years. Today, an immigration advocate says the policies hurt promising youth, while a supporter upholds them.

Grant admission to selective schools

By Azadeh Shahshahani

Georgia just lost another young talent to another state.

Needa Virani arrived in the U.S. at age seven. A year later she moved to Georgia . She attended Brookwood High, where she was a distinguished member of the Math Honors Society and regional science fair participant.

After graduating in 2010 with a 3.97 GPA, Needa attended Georgia Tech and earned a bachelor’s of science degree in biomedical engineering. Needa graduated with high honors, maintained a 3.56 GPA and was a research assistant in an engineering lab. She made plans to pursue a doctoral degree at Georgia Tech under the supervision of a professor who offered her a position in her chosen program.

Little did she know she would be prevented from pursuing her dreams. Earlier this year, the Georgia Tech admissions office informed her that, because of Board of Regents Policy 4.1.6 – which bans undocumented students from attending selective schools – she couldn’t enroll, despite the fact Needa had been granted “deferred action” by the federal government.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has confirmed that individuals who are granted deferred action, including grantees of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are authorized to be present in the United States. Despite this, the Board of Regents refuses to allow DACA grantees admission to selective schools and requires them to pay out-of-state tuition to attend other colleges and universities.

Needa will now have to leave the state she considers home. The Board of Regents policy drove her to search for educational opportunities elsewhere. She just accepted an offer at the University of Oklahoma.

Since the implementation of the Board of Regents’ ban, several gifted students have left for other states. This policy has harmed Georgia by depriving its higher learning institutions of the vibrancy and contributions of some of its most promising youth.

Georgia stands alone in not allowing young immigrants granted deferred action under DACA admission to selective universities. An increasing number of states are now allowing DACA grantees in-state tuition.

Last week at a rally in front of the State Capitol, Raymond Partolan, president of the Student Government Association at Mercer University who came to the U.S. when he was one, described his state of despair in high school:

“I was at the bottom of a very deep and dark well…I, the salutatorian of our high school, could quite possibly not be able to go to college…I felt I had so much potential but the prospect of college was bleak. That fall I tried to kill myself.”

Raymond survived. Now he is one of the leaders in the student movement for equal access to higher education.

Raymond, Needa and students like them are children of Georgia. They have so much to contribute to our communities. Rather than erect barriers, the state should support these exemplary young people and open the way for them to fulfill their potential.

Azadeh Shahshahani is the director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia.

Deferred action not lawful status

By John Litland

In 2010, the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate rejected the 2001 DREAM Act amnesty legislation again. Last year, in cooperation with the illegal alien lobby, President Barack Obama bypassed Congress and declared a “temporary” delay in deportation for a group of illegal aliens who can claim to have been illegally brought to the U.S. as children. He calls his administrative amnesty “Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals” or “DACA.”

The illegal alien lobby is now howling in Atlanta streets that illegals who have had their deportations delayed are somehow legal residents. And that in Georgia’s universities, they are eligible for the rights and privileges of citizens and legal immigrants who obeyed the law.

The truth is that, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Website,deferred action does not provide an individual with lawful status. The White House blog also makes it clear that the DACA process “does not provide lawful status or a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship.”

My (legal) immigrant wife and I look forward to immigration lawyer Charles Kuck trying to redefine the English language to convince a court that an illegal alien under DACA is somehow no longer an illegal alien. Kuck is also vice-chairman of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials,  a lobbying group that marches in the streets of Georgia demanding an end to enforcement of American immigration laws that don’t benefit illegals.

At least three federal laws (8USC1611, 8USC1621 and 8USC 1623) clearly address illegal aliens and taxpayer-funded post secondary education, including in-state tuition. So does existing state law.

In 2006, Georgia passed the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act.

That law excludes illegals from Georgia’s public universities and technical schools and rightfully denies them in-state tuition. In 2010, the Board of Regents adopted a ban on illegal aliens attending certain Georgia schools – like the University of Georgia – that have turned away academically-qualified students.

Recently, Hugo Da Silva claimed the Regents’ policy “ is motivated by racism.” He does not, however, enlighten us as to what race “illegal” actually is in Obama’s America.

A 2010 Mason-Dixon poll Polling & Research for the Georgia Newspaper Partnership showed that two-thirds of Georgians favor barring illegal aliens from attending UGA and other public colleges. Even if they pay out-of-state tuition.

Whatever sympathy we may have for the youngsters who are victims of their parents’ crimes, it’s doubtful most voting Georgians would sit silently if the Regents were to revert to allowing illegal aliens to attend UGA while that school turns away qualified American student applicants.

The good news at our house is that the current demand for even more special privileges for illegal aliens seems to demonstrate a profound doubt that another amnesty will pass in Washington, D.C.

John Litland of Marietta is a member of the advisory board of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society .


47 comments Add your comment

Priscilla Padron

August 10th, 2013
5:05 am

Ms. Shahshahani has clearly defined the scenario that makes the ban on college education a sad situation here in Georgia. We are losing talented young people to other states and denying hope to youth because this is their home.


August 9th, 2013
5:39 pm

NO special taxpayer subsidized benefits for illegals – period. The fact that you’re in the United States illegally and you haven’t been deported – for whatever reason, just lucky or the government looking the other way – is benefit enough. Either go through the established naturalization process to become a legal U.S. citizen or continue to live like a fugitive.

Van Jones

August 9th, 2013
11:46 am

Raymond, the kids need to take it up with their parents. Their parents were solely responsible for the situation they put their kids in, not the GA citizens. You are cleverly trying to focus the issue so precisely that the only resonable response could be the one you want. Sorry, not working.

Dave Gorak

August 9th, 2013
9:21 am

If we continue to bring in all the “gifted” people of the world, who will be left to improve conditions in the developing nations? Our native-born students should always be given top priority when it comes to admissions because they also have dreams deserving to be realized.


August 9th, 2013
7:48 am

I like Raymond’s use of the word “mistake” which of course implies an unintentional wrong. Stating that the parents “made the mistake of entering unlawfully or overstaying their visas?”. I can understand mistakenly crossing the border because you don’t know exactly where the border is. Accidently crossing the border into Georgia is an impossibility. It therefore cannot be a mistake, but rather something done intentionally wrong.

Since the children were brought here illegally, and not by mistake, once they become adults they have an obligation to correct that wrong whether originally their act or not. It isn’t any different than receiving stolen goods (education, welfare, medical care, etc) and not reporting it. Once they’re adults and accept benefits to which they are not entitled this would no longer make them party to the crime but rather criminals.

Am I suggesting that minors be denied medical care because of their parents crimes (not mistakes), of course not. This isn’t what is being suggested. What the author is claiming is that participants of a crime, although not the original criminals, should be rewarded. What the author is saying is that once a child reaches the age of majority that child should automatically be granted rights that no other Georgian or other US citizen is entitled to unless they’ve lived in the state more than two years. Not only that but the author suggests that only the residency requirement should be considered for someone who legally doesn’t exist.

[...] A version of this article first appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. [...]

[...] A version of this article first appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. [...]