Georgia was dealt with many new developments in the ongoing immigrations debate on Tuesday, as high school students gathered at the University of Georgia (UGA) to protest immigration policies while authorities began releasing several undocumented immigrants from federal custody farther south.
High school students from around the state met at the Arch on UGA’s campus to protest the newly implemented immigration policies regarding the documentation of students’ immigration status.
Over 200 students, mainly from the Athens area, identifying themselves as the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA), staged a mock graduation at the Arch. Many of the protesters then traveled around the northern part of the campus, yelling chants against deportation and ending outside the admission offices.
“This is a heated and hotly contested political issue,” says Vicki Birchfield, Associate Professor of INTA.
According to GUYA’s website, the protest was in response to the decision by the Board of Regents (BoR) in Oct. to effectively ban students without correct legal documentation from attending five universities in Georgia, starting Fall 2011.
Students who cannot prove that they are legal residents or U.S. citizens cannot be admitted to UGA, Georgia State University, Georgia College and State University, Tech and the Georgia Health Sciences University as in-state students, according to the new BoR policy. Undocumented students can still attend these universities, but they must pay the more expensive out-of-state tuition.
“I think this is a very complex issue,” said Jordan Lockwood, a second-year BA major. “Education is key to fostering social equity, although tax payers may be unfairly denied the services they deserve. I don’t think that there exists a blanket solution; sensitivity is important.”
The new policy came in the wake of the controversial admissions case of Kennesaw University student, Jessica Colotl, in May 2011. The policy was instituted because of recommendations made by the Residency Verification Committee, which was created to address the issues of undocumented students’ residency and tuition.
So far only one student in the state of Georgia has been barred from enrolling at one of the five affected institutions. Georgia State University denied one undocumented student enrollment, according to a statement by university spokeswoman Andrea Jones.
All admitted Tech students for the Fall semester have met all the necessary enrollment criteria specified by the BoR, but admissions officers canceled three applications after the students were found to be undocumented. According to Institute spokesperson Matt Nagel, these students were directed to other universities.