Georgia leaders debated for years whether the state should allow young immigrants to pay in-state college tuition if they are eligible to work without threat of deportation. Monday the U.S Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in an important immigration case that could bring new clarity to the extent of executive authority. The case of United States v. Texas, however, will not affect Georgia’s ability to permit about 40,000 young Georgia immigrants to pay lower in-state tuition rates.
Monday’s court arguments are expected to focus on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2014 attempt to expand a federal policy established in 2012. The 2012 federal policy allows some undocumented immigrants brought here as children outside of their control to live and work in the U.S. without threat of deportation. Called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the policy is designed for people under 31, brought to the United States before they were 16 and with continuous residence in the country for five years as of June 2012.
About 40,000 young Georgians are eligible to work without threat of deportation under the 2012 policy. They are not allowed to pay in-state tuition at Georgia colleges, a workforce development constraint that hinders the state’s competitiveness.
In 2014 the federal government attempted to extend its deportation relief policy to undocumented immigrants of any age brought here as children and parents of children with legal immigration status. Roughly 134,000 Georgians would qualify for relief under the 2014 policy.
Texas challenged the federal government’s 2014 action in court; 25 other states joined the legal challenge. The case now before the eight sitting Supreme Court justices Monday could provide a final resolution.
The outcome of United States v. Texas will not undo the 2012 policy granting deportation relief to about 40,000 young Georgia immigrants. However the high court decides this case, Georgia can still permit young immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they are eligible to work without threat of deportation under the 2012 federal action.
Lawmakers next year can pass legislation that makes clear these young immigrants are entitled to discounted in-state college tuition. Such a law would prevent further harm to the state’s competitiveness and potential tax revenue, as shown in a September 2015 GBPI report. That analysis showed barring these potential students from more affordable in-state tuition hurts the state in critical ways:
- It weakens Georgia’s ability to create the same diverse, attractive workforces that 27 other states foster with more inclusive tuition policies. Those states include regional competitors Texas, Florida and Virginia. (The lawsuit discussed here is unrelated to Texas’ tuition policies.)
- It undermines Georgia’s goal to create 250,000 additional college graduates by 2025 to meet workforce needs outlined in Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia Initiative.
- It fails to capitalize on Georgia’s investments in its K-12 school system by erecting barriers for undocumented students to continue their education in the state.
Georgia’s state and local governments also forgo an estimated $10 million in potential tax revenue per year by limiting the educational prospects of undocumented immigrants eligible to work without threat of deportation.
No matter the ruling in United States v. Texas, Georgia lawmakers can still help develop higher-earning workers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers by fixing its tuition policy. The path to enhancing state’s competitiveness through tuition policies will be unchanged. It will remain up to Georgia’s leaders to take the right direction.