An Atlanta-based immigration lawyer on Tuesday lost a bid to secure in-state tuition for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program enrolled in Georgia’s public universities and colleges.
Charles Kuck, who is representing a group of illegal immigrant students who sued the state in 2016, argued the students’ deferred status under the now-cancelled DACA program gives them lawful presence in the U.S., a key requirement for in-state tuition under Georgia law.
The Georgia Court of Appeals disagreed with that argument, ruling Tuesday there is no provision of federal or state law that says DACA recipients — commonly known as “Dreamers” — are lawfully present just because they are temporarily protected from deportation. As a result, state colleges and universities in Georgia aren’t required to let them pay in-state tuition, the court said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kuck initially won a victory for the Dreamers in January, when a Fulton County Superior Court judge ordered the university system to give the students a tuition break if they were otherwise qualified. That order was stayed while the state appealed.
Kuck’s argument centered around the designation of “lawfully present,” that he said was affirmed in a FAQ section about the DACA program on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) website. Lawyers for the university system countered that a description of lawful presence on the website did not constitute an official policy or regulation.
Georgia Appeals Court Judge Clyde Reese III sided with the university lawyers, ruling that DACA policy and the DHS website do not create an enforceable designation that “Dreamers” are “lawfully present.” Reese also said neither state law nor university policies require DACA recipients be granted in-state tuition, even if they do carry the designation of “lawfully present.”
Kuck plans to appeal the case to the Georgia Supreme Court.
“If the government writes the policy, they are required to live by that policy,” he said, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “They don’t just get to willy-nilly say words mean different things.”
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