In-State Tuition for DACA recipients: GRANTED

After 3 years of legal battle, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail S. Tusan AGREED with the argument that being a DACA recipient qualifies as being lawfully present and therefore students can receive in-state tuition for colleges and universities.

DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) is a temporary relief given to children that were brought to the US before they turned 16 years old, have continuously resided in the US while under the age of 16, are current in school or acquired GED, have been honorable discharged from the armed forces or Coast Guard and DO NOT have any convictions as felons or significant misdemeanors of any kind.

Under DACA, recipients of the deferred action can get driver’s licenses, can get work permits and benefit from Medicaid and more importantly, an according to the USCIS website, “…an individual whose case has been deferred is not considered to be unlawfully present during the period in which deferred action is in effect. An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by DHS to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect” therefore, the elegibility requirement by the Georgia Board of Regents of “lawful presence” was met by the suit Plaintiffs.

This was the argument the plaintiffs lawyer, Charles Kuck presented to the court in several occassions.  Some time ago, a lower court dismissed the first suit on the grounds of sovereign immunity, essentially saying the students did not have the right to sue the state of Georgia.  Georgia Court of Appeals upheld this ruling.  The students then took the suit to the Supreme Court of Georgia. In February 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected a similar appeal from many of the same plaintiffs. In April 2016, the students filed suit in the Fulton County Superior Court, bringing action against the individual members of the Board of Regents for their failure to correctly implement their own rules on in-state tuition, as mentioned by Charles Kuck, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

Finally, and after many hurdles and countless hours or hard work and tears, Judge Tusan issued a ruling on Friday December 30th stating that University System of Georgia officials, are “hereby compelled to perform their duty in applying the federal definition of lawful presence as it relates to students who are DACA recipients and to grant them in-state tuition status.”  

“Defendants have refused to accept the federally established lawful presence of plaintiffs and many other similarly situated students — students who are Georgia taxpayers, workers, and graduates of Georgia public high schools pursuing an affordable option for higher education.  Such refusal of a faithful performance of their duties is unreasonable and creates a defect of legal justice that has already negatively impacted thousands of Georgia students.”

This important victory for thousands of students in the state maybe short lived as Republican state Senator Josh McKoon has announced that he will file a countermeasure this month.  McKoon is known for proposing bills that prevent DACA recipients from accessing vital services and programs such as driver’s lincenses and has openly spoken against DACA receipints receiving in-state tuition.

If you want to support DACA recipients and the ruling by Judge Gail S. Tusan, please call State Senator Josh McKoon and tell him that GA DACA students are entitled to in-state tuition and denial of education for anyone hurts our state’s economic and cultural vitality. Moreover, The Atlanta Regional Commission’s 2015 Plan Policy Framework includes as one  of its goals “Developing a highly educated and skilled workforce, able to meet the needs of 21st Century employers.  This approach ensures every student’s educational success and equitable access to opportunities, career training and skill development” Judge Tusan’s ruling is aligned with the region’s objectives of education and equitable access to opporunities for all.  His number is:(404) 463-3931.

Federal records show that more than 28,000 people in the state have been granted DACA.

You can access the entire ruling HERE

To read about the requirements to qualify for DACA, click HERE



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Gilda (Gigi) Pedraza

Executive Director and Founder Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) Social Entrepreneur, Community Advocate, Latina, Mom, Wife. Lover of Life.

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