Policy Violates Federal Law and U.S. Constitution

March 9, 2016

ATLANTA, GA - Today, MALDEF, along with local counsel Horsley Begnaud, LLC, filed a federal-court lawsuit against the University System of Georgia, challenging a policy denying in-state tuition to individuals lawfully present as recipients of deferred action from the United States government. The lawsuit alleges that the University of Georgia System's practices violate the Supremacy and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Defendants are the Board of Regents members and the University Presidents.

"In an era when too many purported leaders maliciously target hardworking immigrants prepared to contribute to our nation's future success, this Georgia university policy is antithetical to the state's own interests," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "The policy is also unlawful, and this suit promises to reopen the doors of higher education to some of the state's best and brightest students."

The lawsuit contends that the University of Georgia System violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution because the policy is preempted by federal immigration law and the federal government's exclusive authority to regulate immigration. The lawsuit also alleges that Defendants' acts violate the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause because they deny in-state tuition to deferred action recipients without a constitutionally valid justification.

Under federal law, deferred action recipients are lawfully present and permitted to remain in the United States for a certain period of time during which they may be granted federal employment authorization and a Social Security Number.

"Discrimination in access to higher education isn't just a concern for one group of people; it hurts all Georgians. We are fighting this ill-conceived and unconstitutional policy because the very people who are being denied an equal opportunity to learn are the same people who will drive Georgia's economic growth in the new century," said Nathan Horsley of Horsley Begnaud. "The people of Georgia deserve better."

"The Georgia Regents and University Presidents are telling well-qualified students, mostly Latinos, that they are not in-state students even when they have lived in Georgia most of their lives," said Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel. "These state educators are effectively making it harder for Georgia's students to become educated, and they are violating federal constitutional guarantees in executing their destructive educational policies."

MALDEF has litigated to defend the rights of deferred action recipients in many contexts, including with regard to employment, drivers' licenses, and in-state tuition.

A copy of the lawsuit is available HERE.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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