Students protest Board of Regents’ illegal immigrant ban

Students brought to this country illegally rallied Wednesday morning, challenging a State Board of Regents policy that bars them from attending Georgia’s most competitive colleges.

The ban, which went into place in fall 2011, prohibits illegal immigrants from attending colleges that turned away academically qualified students for the past two years. The rule affects the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Regents University and Georgia College & State University.

Illegal immigrants may attend other public colleges, but they must pay the higher out-of-state tuition rates even if they graduated from a Georgia high school.

Affected students and a prominent immigration attorney called on the regents to recognize “deferred action” students and make them eligible for in-state tuition and admission to the prohibited institutions.

The federal deferred action program, established by President Barack Obama, allows illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work without threat of deportation. To be eligible, they must have arrived in the country before they were 16; enrolled in or have graduated from high school, served in the military or earned a G.E.D; have no felony convictions; and have lived in the country for at least five years.

Immigration attorney Charles Kuck plans to file by Thursday morning a lawsuit challenging the regents’ policy on behalf of deferred action students. Kuck said the regents can grant in-state tuition to these students and make them eligible to attend any campus in the University System of Georgia.

“These students have put their lives on hold and can no longer wait,” Kuck said. “These kids are tired of being political pawns.”

Students who receive deferred action are not eligible for federal financial aid. Some observers have said they would not be eligible for in-state tuition unless states accept deferred action status, instead of legal residency, as a qualification for the taxpayer-supported rates.

The Board of Regents has repeatedly refused to rescind its rule.

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