Undocumented students college tuition lawsuit hearing

ATLANTA – Sporadic protests by undocumented students have become more common in Georgia the past couple of years.

They are demanding the same right afforded to college students who're U.S. citizens…the right to pay in-state tuition instead of the far more expensive out-of-state rate at Georgia's state colleges.

The issue came to a head in 2012 when Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl made national news.

She was threatened with deportation after a campus traffic stop revealed she was not a U.S. citizen.

But because her parents brought her here when she was 10 and she grew up attending Georgia schools, she was allowed to stay.

However, she ended up having to finish her degree by paying higher out-of-state tuition.

"The federal government has recognized them as being legally in the United States and having lawful presence and the state, so far, at least the Board of Regents level, has not recognized that," immigration attorney Charles Kuck told 11 Alive News on Tuesday.

He argued on behalf of 39 undocumented students before Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger.

Kuck contends President Obama granted legal status to such students in 2012 with his controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

"This is the only country they've ever known," Kuck told 11Alive News.

"They don't have the ability to go elsewhere; many of them, their language capabilities in their parents' native tongue isn't nearly as good as English, so for them, this is their home; it's the only home they've ever known," he added.

Assistant State Attorneys General, who don't do TV interviews, argued the case on behalf of the Board of Regents.

They claimed the students can't sue the state because of sovereign immunity and that the federal government can't tell Georgia what to do.

Those who support the current tuition guidelines argue taxpayer subsidized college benefits should be reserved for those who have legal status in the U.S.

Just last week, Florida became the 21st state to allow in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Judge Goger did not indicate how long he will take to rule.

Attorney Kuck said if the students lose the case they plan to lobby Georgia's state legislature to make the change, as Florida's did.

Although mostly conservative, Georgia's lawmakers defeated a move to deny drivers licenses to the same students earlier this year.


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