Judge forces Georgia to give illegals in-state tuition

A Georgia judge ruled Friday in favor of allowing students living in the state under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to qualify for in-state tuition, shocking the state university system.

In fact, the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia has already released a statement indicating that it will challenge the ruling, likely hoping that a previous ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court, which unanimously favored the system’s tuition policies, will act as precedent.

“We believe our policy follows the law,” Charles Sutlive, a spokesman for the board, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “As the Superior Court’s decision will remain on hold during the appeals process, our current in-state tuition policy will remain in effect.”

Even supporters expressed surprise at the decision, with one plaintiff remarking that “I really didn’t think we would actually win this because of all the other decisions we had in the past.”

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Current policy prohibits anyone who is not “lawfully present” in the country from qualifying for admissions, which, according to the Department of Homeland Security, includes individuals in the country under DACA, explicitly noting that “deferred action does not provide lawful status.”

A subsequent school policy further clarifies that in order to be eligible for admission, all students must verify their “lawful presence” in the country, also prohibiting DACA students from paying in-state tuition.

Fulton Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan, however, disagreed with the policies, ordering that the Georgia Board of Regents is “hereby compelled to perform their duty in applying the federal definition of lawful presence as it relates to students who are DACA recipients and to grant them in-state tuition status.”

[RELATED: Illegal immigrants sue Univ. of Georgia for denying them admission]

Notably, the system’s policies only bar DACA students from admission to the state’s top performing schools, or schools that “did not admit all academically qualified applicants” for “the two most recent academic years,” which currently only includes Georgia College and State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia.

Due to Judge Tusan’s recent ruling, which came after three illegal immigrants sued the Board of Regents over its controversial policies, DACA students can now be admitted to the nearly 30 other institutions in the system while paying in-state tuition rates.

Freedom University, a makeshift college that serves as a preparatory school for illegal immigrants, celebrated the ruling, calling it “an important victory in the struggle for equal access to education in Georgia.”

[RELATED: Freedom Univ. works around Georgia policies to offer free tuition to illegal immigrants]

“Congratulations to the courageous undocumented students of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance who were plaintiffs in this case and attorney Charles Kuck who successfully argued the case for in-state tuition,” the statement continues. “Freedom is a constant struggle, but with undocumented students leading the way, we will win.”

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