Protest calls on University of Georgia president to denounce ban on illegal immigrant students

Roughly 100 people gathered Monday afternoon to protest Georgia's ban on illegal immigrants enrolling in the University System of Georgia.

Protesters did not carry through with their original plan to burn their high school diplomas.

UGA's president did not denounce the ban.

Approximately 100 University of Georgia (UGA) students, faculty, staff and illegal immigrants rallied Monday afternoon, calling on the university president to denounce a ban on illegal immigrant students from applying to the university.

The ban, approved by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents in 2010, says “a person who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any University System institution which, for the two most recent academic years, not admit all academically qualified applicants (except for cases in which applicants were rejected for non-academic reasons.)”

The rally began at The Arch, a famed piece of campus architecture, with calls for Jere Morehead, UGA’s president since January 2013, to denounce the ban and meet with the protestors.

Tensions rose high between those at the rally and police who barred the demonstrators from entering the administration building. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, students covered the administration building with signs and banners while pounding on the glass door frame. One lawyer was physically removed after trying to enter the building.

“We are here representing the thousands of undocumented students across the state of Georgia who cannot attend UGA simply because they don’t have a social security number,” Eduardo Samaniego, an organizer of the event, said at the rally. “These are students that grew up in Georgia. They pledged allegiance to the United States, yet they are denied a human right—the right of education.”

Morehead did not publicly address the rally, but he did meet with Samaniego and another student privately in his office. Morehead apparently did not denounce the ban.

“Conversations happen every day, some with great results. This was not one of them,” Samaniego said after the meeting.

“The University community appreciates the variety of perspectives shared through dialogue on a college campus,” Morehead said in a statement provided to Campus Reform. “That is why I had a meeting with representatives of the Undocumented Student Alliance at UGA today. As a unit of the University System of Georgia, we follow Regents policies. As President, I listened to the concerns expressed today and will convey those concerns to the Regents.”

This protest was the third at UGA organized by Freedom University, a school created once the University System of Georgia forbade undocumented applicants. According to its mission, “Freedom University is a volunteer-driven organization that provides rigorous, college-level instruction to all academically qualified students regardless of their immigration status.”

Protesters had planned to burn copies of their high school diplomas, but that did not happen.

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