DACA students urge passage of tuition bill

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“We’re kids,” said Jaime Rangel. “We’re not terrorists, we’re not al Qaeda.”

Rangel, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his family when he was eight months old, is one of the people who reside legally in Georgia because of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order.

He went to the state capitol Thursday with several other students and activists to urge the Legislature to pass a bill — SB 44 – that would allow DACA students to pay the lower in-state tuition rate when they attend one of Georgia’s public colleges.

Rangel has lived in New Jersey or Georgia for nearly his whole life and says, “I don’t know much about the country I was from.” He is now attending Dalton State College but has to pay out-of-state tuition rates, which are much higher than in-state rates, because of his legal status.

Gloria Salinas of Roswell, who came to the U.S. with her family from Mexico at age 5, is a DACA resident who wants to be a doctor one day but says she can’t afford to attend a Georgia college because of the high tuition.

“Why should I have to pay triple the tuition even though I was raised here?” she said at a news conference held at Liberty Plaza. “I want to stay here in Georgia, but I’m being forced to look to other states for an education.”

Raymond Partolan came to the U.S. from the Philippines when he was one year old – “I have no memory of any place other than here” — and has also been granted legal status under DACA.

“Thanks to this program, I’ve been able to come out of the shadows,” Partolan said. “This is my home – I have nowhere else.”

Partolan is in a better situation than many immigrant students – he received a full academic scholarship to Mercer University, a private college in Macon, and is on track to graduate later this year with a degree in political science.

“Unfortunately, others are not so fortunate,” he said. “This is not just a Latino issue.”

Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) is the primary sponsor of SB 44, which will get a hearing next Tuesday in the Senate Higher Education Committee but probably will not go before the full Georgia Senate for a vote.

“These are Georgians, these are Americans, these are children who were raised here who are part of the fabric of our community,” Orrock said. “Georgia has closed the door on them.”

“This is an economic development issue for Georgia,” said Jerry Gonzalez, the director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO). “Anybody who is against SB 44 is standing in the schoolhouse door, blocking progress.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: college tuition , DACA , immigrant students , Nan Orrock