POLITICS

Dreamers Can't Sue For In-State Tuition In Georgia, State Supreme Court Rules

But a new legal challenge is already in the works.
For now, DACA recipients won't be able to sue in Georgia over in-state tuition eligibility.
For now, DACA recipients won't be able to sue in Georgia over in-state tuition eligibility.

The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled on Monday that students who have received deportation relief from the federal government can't sue to be eligible for in-state tuition.

The unanimous ruling said that recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program are barred from suing the board of regents at Georgia's state university system because the principle of "sovereign immunity" shields it from legal liability.

Under the state constitution, "sovereign immunity extends to the state and all of its departments and agencies" -- including the state university system, the court said. In essence, this means that Georgia's state agencies cannot be sued, unless their immunity is "waived" by a law specifically allowing legal challenges.

The ruling effectively dismisses the lawsuit brought by a group of undocumented immigrants who were hoping to convince the courts that Georgia's university system mistakenly failed to consider their DACA status as proof of "lawful presence" in the U.S. so they could receive in-state tuition.

Though the state's Supreme Court didn't resolve the merits of that claim, it didn't outright shut the courthouse door to the students, either.

"Our decision today does not mean that citizens aggrieved by the unlawful conduct of public officers are without recourse," the court said. "It means only that they must seek relief against such officers in their individual capacities."

Charles Kuck, a lawyer for the students, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he's planning a future lawsuit to accommodate the court's language.

According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Georgia is one of the six states that denies in-state tuition to Dreamers.

Georgia is among the six U.S. states (colored green) that denies in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students.
Georgia is among the six U.S. states (colored green) that denies in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students.

Access to in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants can matter a great deal. The average yearly difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public universities can be up to $15,000, according to College Board.

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