Fighting the Georgia Ban On Immigrant Youth

This is a message from one of my friends, Maria Marroquin, who protested against the ban on undocumented students in higher education institutions across Georgia. She’s currently in detention, along with 6 other students, and may face removal from the country.

Three years ago when I helped start, I never thought I would be sitting where I am today. To be honest, one of the reasons I helped start this group was because I was too scared to publicly share my status, to share my face and my name. I thought that if I remained online I could always hide that.

Donate to my bail fund

Over the course of the last few years though, I have learned that that might not be the best thing.  I have learned that if we, as undocumented youth, truly want to get ahead then we need to be ourselves. We need to come out and we need to show this nation that we are undocumented and unafraid and will accept nothing less than equality.

Today, I will be participating in a sit-in action. I will most likely be arrested and placed into deportation proceedings. I am willing to risk all of this because my current situation is unbearable. It took me nearly five years to graduate with a two-year degree paying out-of-state tuition. I don’t complain about it; however, I can’t stand by knowing that my little brother and sister will have to follow the same path.

This is not an easy decision to make, especially knowing I might have to raise up to $7,500 to be released from detention.

Our politicians may have let us down, and at this point, that is something we expect from them.  I cannot, however, silently sit by and let my family down.  I have to fight for them and for each of you.  Today when I get arrested, I will do so with a smile on my face knowing that I am truly Undocumented, Unafraid and Unapologetic.  Will you join me?

If you are unable to take the risk yourself then maybe you can donate just $25 towards my bail fund.

See you on the other side,

Maria Marroquin
Co-founder of

Maria is the quintessential dreamer. And I’m proud of her for standing up against injustice. If you can spare some cash, the students need $1800 each to make bail. Donate here.

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Making College Less Accessible for Immigrant Students One Lawsuit at a Time

Disclaimer: This issue does not relate to me. I am not an AB-540 student and nor have I ever benefited from it. But it makes me mad that people are scapegoating fellow college students who have worked really hard to get where they are .

Seriously, college education should be free for all and then we wouldn’t be fighting over the small piece of the pie. Alas …

Kris Kobach finally got his first and last victory in the battle to end in-state tuition for undocumented students. The 3rd District California Court of Appeal issued a decision yesterday that challenges a state law allowing some undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition. (Explanation here)

After losing the battle in district courts and appeals court in various states, Kansas Chairperson of the Republican Party, Kris Kobach made one final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, only to be turned down. Obviously, the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court had nothing to say on the issue that hasn’t already been said by the district and appeals courts: the plaintiffs do not have a right to sue.

He vowed to keep trying to make life more difficult for undocumented students or immigrants without legal status (whom he would call ILLEGAL students) and collect more plaintiffs in order to sue states for providing in-state tuition to undocumented students who had graduated from those state high schools (i.e. in California, your eligibility for in-state tuition is determined by whether you have attended a California high school for 3 or more years).

(While we are on the topic of “illegal,” for those who don’t know, Kris Kobach is the GOP politician that sent out emails boasting about voter caging–an ILLEGAL tactic employed by the Republican Party to purge likely-Democrat voters from the polls. I thought ‘illegal is illegal’ – Why is this guy still allowed to roam around free after disenfranchising thousands of voters?!)

Addendum: This from Duke @ Migra Matters. “Look who was part of that class action suit …Brian Bilbray…ex-FAIR lobbyist and head of the nativist Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus …his kids had been living in VA and didn’t qualify for in-state tuition”


While the DREAM Act does not grant instate-tuition rights to undocumented students, opponents of the legislation have effectively spread myths purporting that “illegal aliens can get instate-tuition anywhere” with passage of the legislation. This is baseless and untrue–If the federal DREAM Act passes it would make this ruling ineffective or the plaintiff’s argument ineffective because it repeals the only statute that gives or may give these plaintiffs any legal standing (8 U.S.C. § 1623). However, that does not ensure that undocumented students would get instate-tuition at all schools because residency determination is a state prerogative.

Eleven states currently provide in-state tuition to children without legal status in the United States (Texas, California, Utah, Washington, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nebraska.) ALL legal challenges and lawsuits filed against these states had been dismissed by courts until yesterday when the on-crack judges wanting some fame of their own reversed a decision by Yolo Superior Court Judge Thomas Warriner in 2006 that upheld the AB-540 tuition law passed by the Legislature in 2001.

While the courts in California battle over the issue, undocumented students are expected to continue paying in-state tuition till a final ruling is given on this matter. This also gives new purpose to California AB-540 students to push for the Federal DREAM Act, passage of which would strike-down the federal law prohibiting ‘benefits’ for undocumented students in higher education (unless citizens get the same benefit).

I believe Quaker sums the issue up best here in his own light comedic way for any passerby to understand. Rahman has another strong piece posted here that anyone defending in-state tuition for undocumented students should find helpful.

Below is some material that I had published earlier to provide a better background on the in-state tuition debate.


For a legal background of the in-state tuition debate, we first look to Vlandis v. Kline et Al (1973), in which two students who had recently established residency in Connecticut brought suit against the state under § 1983, alleging that the provisions of 1971 Conn. Pub. Acts § 126(a), which created an irrebuttable presumption of nonresidency for purposes of determining tuition between residents and non-residents in the state’s universities, violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the suit—“the state was forbidden by the Due Process Clause to deny an individual the resident rates on the basis of a permanent and irrebuttable presumption of nonresidence when that presumption was not necessarily or universally true in fact.” The court concluded that due process required that students should have the opportunity to present evidence of their bona fide residency within the state for in-state tuition purposes.

This holds true for undocumented students—children that are brought up in a particular state, and attend and graduate from secondary schools in that state should indeed be deemed residents for tuition purposes. Most statutes that give undocumented students instate-tuition are based on this premise. After all, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe:

  1. The undocumented status of these children vel non does not establish a sufficient rational basis for denying them benefits that the State affords other residents.
  2. Neither is there any merit to the claim that undocumented children are appropriately singled out because their unlawful presence within the United States renders them less likely than other children to remain within the State’s boundaries and to put their education to productive social or political use within the State.

Undocumented or Illegal is not an immutable characteristic for these students—it is subject to change. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the ‘illegal alien’ child of today could be the U.S. citizen of tomorrow and there was no way of determining that the undocumented child would in fact be deported hence, “it would of course be most difficult for the State to justify a denial of education to a child enjoying an inchoate federal permission to remain.” Similarly, since deportation is a federal procedure and until it is completed in cases of individual undocumented students, it is impossible for a state to deem that a person is a ‘non-resident’ for tuition purposes because s/he may just indefinitely remain in the state after establishing it as home. Hence, granting in-state tuition to undocumented students based on their residency in the state becomes a rational and reasonable objective for the state.

Read More …

Immigrant Students and Being Thankful to the United States

I am yet to understand why I should be thankful to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA for my higher education.

Did the government pay for it? No.
Did they sit tests and write papers for me? No.
Could I have gotten the same education and made the same achievements anywhere else? Probably, given the amazing primary school education I received that enabled me to score at college standard when I arrived here. I always came in at Rank 1 from K-_____, whenever and that hasn’t changed. Studying in the United States, has nothing to do with it.

That does not mean I am not grateful for the opportunities this country has given me. I recognize them first-hand. I realize we are more ‘free’ here as women, our sexualities are less repressed, we may have more freedom of expression and more activities that we can do to distract ourselves.

I don’t see why I should be thankful to anyone besides my professors and colleagues, my parents (footing the bill) and myself (hard-work and intellectual acumen) for any of my educational achievements.

If you are an immigrant student, do speak.

US News Coverage of Undocumented Students in Higher Education

I am busy for the next 2 months till the October LSAT, which is why you will not be seeing frequent blog posts from me. Do feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me an email though.
I know we learn by repetition but exactly how many times does one need to repeat the same story compromising different voices. US News took on the issue of undocumented students in higher education recently, with the reporter in question interviewing undocumented students and their foes for over a month. At the end of the process, we get a measly 2-pages with the same old known facts that gives us nothing new, offers nothing path-breaking or thought-provoking.

“Should Colleges Enroll Illegal Immigrants?” WHAT? Why are we even asking this question? Every human being has the right to pursue education, especially at their own expense. We should have moved beyond this already. What an utter waste of time for the students involved–their stories and life experiences could be put to use in a much more scholastic, academic and beneficial manner–by showing how their presence in the waiting rooms of history has led to the creation of small, active, online communities. Even the uniqueness of Generation 1.5, the challenges they have faced and overcome in the United States. That is a much better piece than quoting Kobach and Gheen over and over–who have the same hateful message to give time and time again.

Lets wait and watch on this US News piece that even I made a vital contribution to, not expecting much out of it. Why did I do it? Because I believe our stories need to be told, our voices need to be heard. Without hegemony, without the backing of the state, our stories can only become histories when they are told and retold enough times to become collective memory.