Court agrees with IRLI and denies admission to Georgia universities
for DACA-deferred illegal aliens
WASHINGTON – Today the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued the first opinion by a federal circuit court classifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients as illegal aliens. The court’s opinion, which closely tracks a friend-of-the-court brief that the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had filed in the case, makes clear that DACA recipients are “inadmissible and thus removable” under federal law. According to the Court, their deportation has merely been “reprieved” by an Obama-era policy that “encouraged” government officials to “exercise prosecutorial discretion and focus on higher-priority cases.”
In 2016, several DACA recipients sued the Georgia higher education system, which bars aliens who are not “lawfully present” from enrolling in selective state colleges and universities, even if they otherwise qualify for admission. The students argued that they were lawfully present under federal law, which preempted state law. They also claimed that the admissions bar violated their right to equal protection, as Georgia treats aliens who are paroled into the U.S. or granted asylum as lawfully present.
The Eleventh Circuit rejected all of the students’ claims. In its brief to the court, IRLI had exhaustively shown that DACA recipients do not have “lawful presence” as defined anywhere in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court agreed, finding that Georgia’s determination that they lacked lawful presence tracked federal law. And because the court held that DACA recipients are not lawfully present, but are illegal aliens, it did not apply “strict scrutiny” to Georgia’s admissions policy under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Instead, the court upheld the policy as rationally related to a legitimate state interest.
“This is an important decision,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “On many fronts, open borders legal groups have been using DACA recipients to try to blur the distinctions between citizen and noncitizen and between legal aliens and illegal aliens. In blurring those distinctions, they blur the very border of our country, and begin rubbing out the notion that the United States is fully a sovereign nation. Today’s decision is a major check on that effort, and I expect it will reverberate across the national legal landscape.”
The case is Estrada v. Becker, No. 17-12668 (Eleventh Circuit).
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