POLITICS

Georgia Dreamers seek to pay in-state tuition at state universities

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 01:  People walk on the Columbia University campus on July 1, 2013 in New York City. An interest rate hike kicks in today for student loans, an increase for 7 million students. Congress left town at the end of last week failing to prevent rates on new Stafford student loans increasing from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 01: People walk on the Columbia University campus on July 1, 2013 in New York City. An interest rate hike kicks in today for student loans, an increase for 7 million students. Congress left town at the end of last week failing to prevent rates on new Stafford student loans increasing from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

The plight of immigrant students seeking in-state tuition has moved to the state of Georgia.

A group of young people who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children and who have been granted temporary permission to stay is asking a judge to order the state’s university system to allow them to pay in-state tuition.

Currently, Georgia’s university system requires students seeking in-state tuition to provide verification of “lawful presence” in the U.S.

The university’s system governing body has said students with temporary permission to stay under the 2012 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA don’t meet the requirements.

In a court filing Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court, a lawyer for the 10 young immigrants argues that the federal Department of Homeland Security has said that people who have qualified for the 2012 program are "lawfully present." The young people bringing the legal action, who meet all the other requirements, should therefore be eligible for in-state tuition, attorney Charles Kuck wrote in the filing.

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The Georgia Supreme Court in February rejected a similar request from some of the same young immigrants, saying it was barred by sovereign immunity, which shields the state and state agencies from being sued unless the General Assembly waives that protection.

To get around that, the court filing Tuesday names each individual member of the Board of Regents rather than naming the board, which is considered a state agency.

"Justice, common sense, and Georgia's own economic self-interest all demand in-state tuition for DACA recipients," Kuck said in a statement. "We will fight for this until we win. The hope of Georgia's children is at stake."

University system spokesman Charles Sutlive declined to comment on pending litigation.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund last month filed a separate federal lawsuit on behalf of two immigrant college students who graduated from Georgia high schools and live in the state but are required to pay out-of-state tuition. That suit says the policy is pre-empted by federal immigration law and therefore violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also says the policy violates the Constitution's equal protection guarantee because it denies in-state tuition without a constitutionally valid justification.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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