ATLANTA, GA – Three students are suing the University System of Georgia because of policies that ban them from attending the state’s top school because of their immigration classification.
The lawsuit was filed today by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Horsley Begnaud, LLC on behalf of three immigrant students who were granted deportation deferrals through the Obama Administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, known as DACA. Young immigrants who qualify for deferred action are authorized to remain in the United States and are given work authorization, Social Security cards, and are eligible for driver’s licenses.
Currently, the university system refuses to admit deferred action recipients to the University of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Georgia College and State University, and Augusta University solely because of their immigration classification.
“The defendants’ policy excludes some of Georgia’s best and brightest students from its top schools,” said Burth G. López, MALDEF staff attorney. “Not only is the policy contrary to the very fairness embedded in our constitutional system, but it ultimately hurts Georgia by diminishing the overall quality of its classrooms.”
At issue is the board of regents’ inconsistent policies that fail to recognize that deferred action students are lawfully present in the country and prevent them from enrolling in the top tier schools but allow them to attend less prestigious state schools.
The lawsuit contends that such policies violate the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, by interfering with the federal government’s sole authority to make immigration rules, and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
“The policy that smart, hard-working and successful students should be denied equal access to top quality education is both unconstitutional and utterly ill conceived,” said Nathanael A. Horsley, of Horsley Begnaud, LLC. “The University System of Georgia is unjustly punishing students who have lived here since they were children by denying them an equal opportunity for a better life. The policy also excludes some of the very students who have demonstrated the qualities that will help move Georgia forward as an economic leader in the Southeast. We are fighting against this policy because it is unconstitutional and because discrimination in access to higher education isn’t just a concern for one group of people; it hurts all Georgians.”
Salvador Alvarado is among the students suing state officials. Alvarado, who is a DACA recipient, was forced to delay enrollment in college. He is now an incoming first-year student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Another plaintiff now attends Smith College.
In March, MALDEF filed another case challenging the university system’s policy that denies in-state tuition to DACA recipients.
A copy of the lawsuit is available HERE.