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Monday, September 2, 2013 - 12:00pm

Hit The Road, Not The Books

Opponents of a state college system policy are still waiting for a response to their lawsuit challenging Georgia’s treatment of undocumented students. But they say the state has already granted some rights to the students who are suing.

The Board of Regents bars undocumented students from Georgia’s top colleges. And it requires them to pay out-of-state tuition at the others.

The students suing say the policy conflicts with a 2012 executive order from Pres. Obama that gives them lawful presence.

The order is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

Tony Del Campo is a former superior court judge and chair of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. He notes the state has given driver’s licenses to students with DACA status.

“If you’re getting that benefit from the Department of Driver Services, I think it’s very consistent with a judge telling the Board of Regents that they have to admit these students and give them in-state tuition,” he said in an interview.

He added, “The attorney general, Sam Olens, has determined that these individuals who are DACA recipients are eligible for driver’s licenses. That is in essence a benefit that otherwise individuals who are not in the country legally cannot get.”

But state officials disagree. Lauren Kane is with the attorney general’s office. She wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit but she said the issuance of a driver’s license is a separate matter.

“There is a state statute that explicitly allows people with deferred action status to receive a driver’s license in Georgia,” she said.

She noted the law dates to 2005, seven years before the Obama executive order.

According to a letter attorney general Olens sent to Gov. Nathan Deal last year, the phrase “deferred action status,” likely comes from a federal law enacted that year governing identification requirements. Pres. Obama used the same language last year when he issued his order about undocumented youth whose parents brought them here illegally as children.