Plaintiffs in the legal dispute gathered outside the Fulton County Superior Court in December. MIGUEL MARTINEZ/MUNDO HISPANICO

Georgia regents appeal ruling on in-state tuition for some immigrants

Georgia’s Board of Regents on Friday appealed a Fulton County Superior Court ruling that it must allow immigrants temporarily shielded from deportation to pay in-state tuition, which is three times lower than the out-of-state rate.

The board also asked the Fulton Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan to keep her ruling on hold while the Georgia Court of Appeals considers the case.

“Substantial legal issues were involved in the underlying case,” the board says in its appeal, “and the ultimate disposition of this matter by the Court of Appeals, and perhaps the Supreme Court of Georgia, will have significant consequences for defendants extending beyond its impact on the parties to this particular litigation. Enforcement of the final order pending appeal would result in irreparable harm to defendants and the state of Georgia.”

An Obama administration program is at the heart of the legal dispute: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. That program grants two-year work permits and temporary deportation deferrals to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children without authorization. Ten DACA recipients living in Georgia sued the Board of Regents in the Fulton Superior Court for the ability to pay the in-state rate.

The board is pointing to a 2008 state law says noncitizens cannot pay that rate unless they are “legally in this state.” The board’s tuition policy closely tracks that law. The plaintiffs in the case — assisted by local immigration attorney Charles Kuck — referred in court to federal records that say DACA recipients are lawfully present in the U.S.

In its 23-page appeal, the board said nothing in its policies, state law or frequently asked questions issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “establishes that the DACA recipients have a clear legal right to in-state tuition or that the regents have a clear legal duty to provide the same; therefore, the Superior Court committed reversible error.”

Kuck responded Friday: “By denying these students the right to pay what the courts say they are legally entitled to, the Board of Regents has created remarkable hardship on students who only want to learn and achieve for our state.”

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