Emory students compare federal aid for illegals fight to Civil Rights Movement

A group of students at Emory University published an op-ed in The Emory Wheel comparing the fight for federal aid for undocumented students to the Civil Rights Movement.

“In honor of this event, 25 undocumented students and 70 of their allies integrated college classrooms at three of the five public universities in Georgia that deny admission to undocumented students, in a courageous act of civil disobedience that came to be known as the #GreensboroNow action. #GreensboroNow was coordinated by Freedom University, an Atlanta-based freedom school for undocumented students,” they write.

In commemoration of Greensboro’s 56th anniversary, dozens of undocumented students organized a string of sit-ins across the University of Georgia System earlier this month. Fourteen students were arrested during the sit-ins for refusing to leave university property after hours.

The arrested students were released after an Atlanta-based immigration group paid $25,000 in bail.

[RELATED: Student protesters arrested, immigration group pay $25k bail]

Now, students involved in the protests are comparing restrictions placed on undocumented students to racial segregation, saying documentation policies are used to intentionally exclude young people of color.

“As the South continues to struggle with its history of racial oppression, Georgia policymakers are using documentation status as a means of constraining the opportunities being given to young people,” the students write. “Citizenship has long been used by the U.S. as a social construct to legally exclude and oppress people of color.”

The University of Georgia System currently has two policies, passed by the Board of Curators in 2011, that bar illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition and attending state-funded schools. Policy 4.1.6. bans “a person who is not lawfully present in the United States” from being admitted to any school in the state system. Policy 4.3.4. requires all successful applications to verify their “lawful presence” in America before attending any of Georgia’s top public institutions.

Students at Emory, however, disagree with the policies and are advocating for a change to the state’s procedures.

“Georgia has placed barriers in the path of undocumented students seeking to attain an education, thus perpetuating long-standing inequalities that stigmatize and marginalize immigrants,” Emory students write in their op-ed.

The students go on to say that undocumented students deserve equal access to higher education, calling the university’s immigration policies “discriminatory.”

“Undocumented students deserve equal access to higher education and the opportunity to pursue their goals without being subject to discriminatory policies,” they write. “By limiting the life choices of undocumented students and preventing them from reaching their full human potential, the state of Georgia puts itself on the wrong side of history, while also forcing some of its brightest and most capable students to leave the state.”

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