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Georgia Board Under Fire Over Illegal Immigrant College Acceptance Policy

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File photo of a fence marking the border between Nogales, Ariz., (left) and Nogales, Sonora Mexico. (credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

File photo of a fence marking the border between Nogales, Ariz., (left) and Nogales, Sonora Mexico. (credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) — The Georgia Board of Regents has come under fire for a policy adopted last year that would give state colleges and universities the ability to reject students if the applicant is an undocumented citizen.

The outrage is aimed specifically at the policy titled “Admission of Persons Not Lawfully Present in the United States.”

“A person who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any University System institution which, for the two most recent academic years, did not admit all academically qualified applicants (except for cases in which applicants were rejected for non-academic reasons),” the policy states.

While this policy does not affect most of the state’s institutions, it does however apply to some of the largest and most competitive ones the state has to offer, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Those opposing the policy feel it unfairly isolates undocumented students from education opportunities.

“Anyone who works their butt off in the high school to go to college and has to pay out-of-state tuition on top of all the other obstacles they have, should be allowed to attend a public university,” Gustavo Quirarte, a representative of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance, told WGCL-TV. “Education has nothing to do with immigration status. It is based on merit.”

CBS Atlanta has reached out to GUYA for further comment.

John Millsaps, spokesperson for the Board of Regents, said that the policy was created to address another, previous outcry regarding undocumented students in college and university classrooms.

“The idea was that this would satisfy concerns of undocumented students taking seats from Georgia residents,” he said. “The list changes over time. (And those students affected) still maintain access to the system at the (other) institutions in the state.”

According to Millsaps, some have reportedly given support to the Board of Regents, asserting that, by their mere presence in the state, illegal immigrants are already breaking laws.

“This continues to be a hot-button issue, not only in Georgia, but nationally,” he said.

But those who protest the policy’s existence want it gone. Until then, professors at UGA have responded by creating “Freedom University,” to offer the same quality education to undocumented students affected by the policy.

“Founded in 2001, Freedom University is a volunteer-driven organization that provides rigorous, college-level instruction to all academically qualified students regardless of their immigration status,” the initiative’s website reads. “We believe that all Georgians have an equal right to a quality education. Separate and unequal access to higher education contravenes this country’s most cherished principles of equality and justice for all.”

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