Atlanta — With the beginning of a new school year fast approaching, dozens of undocumented students, many wearing their high school graduation gowns, held a rally July 31 at the Georgia state Capitol to denounce policies adopted by the Board of Regents that deny them educational advancement.
In 2010 and 2011, Georgia passed a series of extreme anti-immigrant laws and regulations which signaled an escalating attack on undocumented workers and their families.
The unelected Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public colleges, universities and technical schools, responded to intense right-wing political pressure by banning undocumented students from being accepted to the five top-tier schools — the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, the Medical College of Georgia, and Georgia College and State University — no matter how high their academic achievement.
Undocumented students can attend other public institutions but must pay out-of-state tuition, which can double or triple the cost of attending college. This makes higher education out of reach for even the most determined student. Federal and state aid, such as Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, is also off limits to these youth.
At the rally, attorney Charles Kuck announced that he would be filing a lawsuit by 50 undocumented students challenging the ban on admission to the five named institutions. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program enacted by the Obama administration, young people who meet certain qualifications are protected from deportation and allowed some form of permission to be in the country legally. The 50 students who are party to this lawsuit meet the DACA requirements.
The emotional and inspiring speeches by several of the youth who told stories of discrimination and despair, family sacrifice and determination, and personal achievement and activism, brought chants of “Undocumented and unafraid!” from the crowd.
With signs and banners declaring their demands, the group of youth, joined by families with small children, professors from Freedom University and other supporters, marched to the Board of Regents’ office for a second rally. Freedom University provides instruction to students regardless of their immigration status.
Across the country, the bold, creative and heroic actions of undocumented youth to demand their human rights has galvanized immigrant communities and a broad section of the labor, civil rights and anti-war movements to publicly join the struggle.