Georgia lawmaker to reintroduce in-state tuition bill for young immigrants

Dalton Republican calls the matter a ‘workforce development issue’

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter said Monday that he will reintroduce legislation this week that would allow young immigrants who have been granted a reprieve from deportation to pay in-state tuition at Georgia colleges and universities.

The legislation will mirror his House Bill 997, which drew bipartisan support last year but ultimately stalled in the House Higher Education Committee.

Carpenter called the matter a “workforce development issue.”

“We have invested in these kids already through k-12 education,” said the Dalton Republican, whose family owns a pair of restaurants and a wedding venue. “It provides opportunities for our students to enter the workforce with better qualifications.”

Carpenter said his bill would apply to participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Created by the Obama administration in 2012, the program grants renewable two-year work permits and temporary deportation deferrals to immigrants who were brought here before they turned 16, who are attending school here and who have no felony convictions. As of 2019, 21,110 people in Georgia were participating in DACA.

Donald Trump campaigned on ending DACA during his successful run for president in 2016. But in a ruling last year, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Trump from immediately proceeding with his plan. Last week, President Joe Biden issued a memo directing the Justice and Homeland Security departments to “preserve and fortify DACA.”

In 2018, the Georgia Supreme Court decided against hearing a lawsuit in favor of allowing DACA recipients to pay in-state tuition. Its decision came after the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled against the lawsuit, reversing a lower court’s decision that said DACA recipients should be permitted to pay in-state tuition.

Carpenter’s HB 997 also specified that for students to be eligible for in-state tuition they must be younger than 30, have been in the United States since they turned 12 and have graduated from a Georgia high school or obtained Georgia GED diplomas.

Bernie Olvera, 27, a DACA recipient who graduated from Dalton High School and Dalton State College, is among those who could benefit from Carpenter’s legislation. Olvera works as a technology consultant in Atlanta and is interested in getting a graduate degree.

“Something like a tuition equity bill would really help people like me and families,” said Olvera, whose parents brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was 4.