Our Opinion: Georgia Schools Should Help Undocumented Students

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Three weeks ago, many said Emory’s decision to offer financial aid to undocumented students made it “an ethical leader in the South.” That wasn’t enough to convince Georgia’s Board of Regents, whose spokesperson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Emory’s announcement would have no impact on their policy.

It is not only morally wrong but economically senseless to not follow Emory’s lead.

Georgia, along with seven other states, wrote a bill this year to offer in-state aid to undocumented students who are exempt from deportation under the federal policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would revoke the Board’s current policy. The policy also states that these students can only apply to Georgia colleges after they choose the regular applicant pool. Students without legal status can currently pay in-state tuition in 21 states.

The Georgia Senate’s Bill 44, however, never left committee before the Senate’s session ended last week, the AJC reported.

First, on a moral level, we at the Wheel find the Board’s decision appalling, as it punishes a group of young people — who are American in every figurative sense except the legal one — for a decision that was beyond their control: to immigrate to the United States. Many of these students did make the decision, however, to push themselves to achieve the grades, test scores and other qualifications to make them eligible for their state’s top public colleges in every way but one — their citizenship.

The state supports their education and their chance to prove themselves academically from kindergarden through high school, but stops there, denying many of them the true ticket to a better future.

We acknowledge there may be political counterarguments to our stance. Offering lower tuition to immigrants without legal status might cross the line for many. However, the governor of Georgia appoints the Board members, and so its members are not liable to obey such voters, nor should they have any ideological reason to conform to such xenophobia. On top of that, it appears that the Board rests somewhere above the people’s opinion. The AJC reported that a group of 39 DACA qualifiers tried to sue the Board for its policy, but sovereign immunity shielded the Board from such litigation.

Morality aside, the bill makes economic sense. If the Board cites financial resources as a reason not to follow Emory’s lead, we believe it to be seriously mistaken. On a national scale, immigrants are the backbone of our economy, and the state of Georgia is no exception. How can we bolster this trend? By allowing those immigrants to attain a degree with a lower tuition that encourages them to remain in Georgia, attain a job in their state and contribute to the economy.

We may appear to be preaching from Emory’s ivory tower of acceptance, so to speak, but we do not hesitate to condemn what we see as ethically unsound and pragmatically senseless. The Board has instituted a glass ceiling for undocumented students, and we at the Wheel demand that they shatter it.

The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel‘s editorial board.