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DACA Students Continue Years-Long Fight Over In-State Tuition

Recipients of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, stand with Attorney Charles Kuck Thursday.
Recipients of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, stand with Attorney Charles Kuck Thursday.
Credit Elly Yu / WABE

 

A Fulton County judge heard arguments on Thursday over whether some immigrant students without legal status should get in-state tuition at Georgia’s colleges.

This isn’t the first time the students have brought their case before state court. Last year, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled against the students, finding the Board of Regents was immune to being sued. A lawyer representing some students tried again, filing a lawsuit against each individual member of the Board of Regents.

Nayeli Quezada-Kuser, 25, who was part of the original lawsuit, said she still has hope even though it’s been about three years since the first lawsuit was filed.

“I feel older,” she said. “I’m like an older adult still fighting to get in-state tuition. I graduated in 2009 [from high school] so it’s hard at times. It’s physically and mentally exhausting, but the hope still remains.”

Kuser is one of more than 20,000 people in Georgia who have received DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program was created in 2012 by President Barack Obama through executive action for young people brought to the country illegally when they were children, and allows them to stay in the country temporarily.

The Board of Regents doesn’t allow DACA students to pay in-state rates. Its policy requires students to be “lawfully present” in order to pay the lower tuition rates, but the students argue DACA has allowed them to be in the country “lawfully.”

On Thursday, Russell Willard, an attorney for the state, argued the DACA program does not entitle the students to in-state tuition. Willard also pointed out to the uncertainty of the program, given the recent election. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to end the program.

Attorney Charles Kuck, who represents the students, said, despite the uncertainty, he’ll continue the case.

“The reality is until he ends the program, until these kids no longer have a legal right or lawful presence, we will keep fighting the lawsuit,” Kuck said.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan said she expects to rule on the case by the end of this month.

A Board of Regents spokesperson declined “to comment on pending litigation.”