Photo Courtesy: Freedom University Georgia
ATLANTA - State police arrested seven students Tuesday morning during a demonstration at the Board of Regents meeting.
The students sat down in board members' seats before the meeting began and refused to leave. The action was part of a protest over the state's policy of not allowing undocumented students to attend the state's top five universities. Under the policy, those students must also pay out-of-state tuition at any other public college in the state.
The students, however, argue that they should not be singled out because many of them have been granted "lawful presence" in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The federal government announced the policy in 2012, which allows those who qualify to stay in the country temporarily if they were brought here as children.
"According to DACA, we have legal presence here in the United States and we reside here in Georgia," said Salvador Alvarado-Linares, who plans to start college in North Carolina in the fall. "So, taking that into consideration, why are we forced to pay out of state tuition to the state schools that are here?"
A spokesperson for the Board of Regents said the policy is the result of state law and they cannot make changes without lawmakers first taking action.
"Our policy was adopted several years ago to mirror applicable law," said Charles Sutlive in a statement to FOX 5. "That law required public higher education - including the University System - to ensure that only students who could demonstrate lawful presence were eligible for certain benefits, including in-state tuition. That law remains in effect, and, therefore, so will our policy."
Freedom University Georgia organized the protest. They have called for a boycott of Georgia until the policy is amended.
"We're asking that you don't support Georgia in any way until they take responsibility and fix the actions and allow people to pursue higher education," said Yineira Lopez of Johns Creek, who immigrated with her parents from Venezuela.
State Police identified those arrested as:
- Luis A. San Roman Cruz, 20, of Lawrenceville
- Serg I. Delgadillo Morales, 21, of Hampton
- Cy Clements Lam, 21, of Albany
- Nusaiba Mubarak, 22, of Atlanta
- Asma Miloud, 38, of Lilburn
- Jonathan S Conde Peraza, 19, of Lilburn
- Justin Christian, 23, of Atlanta
All seven are charged with criminal trespass and "preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members; unlawful activities within the state capitol or certain Capitol Square buildings."