Hearing set on in-state tuition for immigrants without legal status

Credit: Miguel Martinez/Mundo Hispanico

Credit: Miguel Martinez/Mundo Hispanico

A Fulton County Superior Court judge heard arguments but did not issue a decision Tuesday about a lawsuit seeking in-state college tuition for immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children.

Judge John Goger did not indicate when he would make his decision known after presiding over a hearing that lasted less than an hour. But attorneys in the case said his decision could come at any time.

At issue is a federal program that has granted the 39 plaintiffs in the lawsuit a temporary reprieve from deportation. The federal government says people granted that benefit are legally present in the U.S., which is what Georgia’s in-state tuition policy requires.

But state attorneys have filed papers seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program doesn’t affect Georgia’s tuition policies or give the plaintiffs any rights to in-state tuition.

Georgia’s in-state tuition rate is several thousand dollars below the out-of-state rate.

Nineteen states have laws or policies allowing people who meet certain criteria to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of their legal status, according to the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center, an immigrant-rights organization.

Florida could become the 20th. Last week, Florida’s Senate passed legislation granting in-state tuition for immigrants without legal status. Also last week, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, told the state’s colleges that immigrants like the plaintiffs in Georgia’s case can qualify for in-state tuition, if they meet Virginia’s residency requirements.