Freedom University and Project South Release Report “A Dream Deferred: The Devastating Consequences of Restricting Undocumented Student Access to Higher Education in Georgia.”
A PDF copy of the report is available at https://freedom-university.org/facts-figures
Today, on the steps of the Georgia Board of Regents, undocumented student leaders, teachers, and community leaders held a press conference to mark the release of the report "A Dream Deferred." The 75-page report documents the consequences of Georgia Board of Regents’ Policy 4.1.6, which bans undocumented students from the top public universities in Georgia, and Policy 4.3.4, which bars undocumented students from in-state tuition rates. The report details how Georgia came to pass the harshest laws and policies toward undocumented immigrants in the country, and how Georgia’s restriction of undocumented student access to higher education 1) causes serious health problems and psychological trauma among undocumented youth, 2) harms all Georgians by weakening the state economy and sending its brightest students out of state, and 3) violates international human rights law.
Speakers included undocumented youth leaders Raymond Partolan, Arizbeth Sanchez, and Mamadou Diakite; Charles Black, civil rights veteran; Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, Executive Director of Freedom University; and Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director of Project South.
Raymond Partolan, an immigration paralegal and DACA recipient originally from the Philippines, shared his experience growing up undocumented in Georgia. “Around the age of ten, the federal government denied my family’s application for a green card because my dad couldn’t pass one section of an English test that he took over and over. Our family was plunged into undocumented status. My family had to make a very difficult decision – do we stay or do we return to the Philippines? We decided to stay. Being undocumented for most of my life has been tough to say the least. The fact that Georgia has one of the most restrictive set of policies in regards to undocumented students having access to colleges and universities made it even worse. You see, growing up, my mom always instilled the value of education in me. She told me it was the only thing that no one could ever take away.”
"I was educated in Georgia, and I loved every single second that I sat in a classroom," said Arizbeth Sanchez, a Freedom University staff member. "I took nine Advanced Placement classes and graduated with honors with a 3.5 GPA. I studied French for seven years and discovered that learning new languages fulfills me. I am currently learning my fourth language, Korean, and will be pursuing Mandarin when I go to college. I love learning. So when I realized that I couldn't go to college in Georgia, I was crushed. How does stopping youth who actively want to pursue higher education help Georgia?"
Mamadou Diakite, a Freedom University student leader, arrived in the United States from Mali when he was 11 months old. “For the last seven years, I have worked in road construction, specializing in asphalt, concrete, and line striping: in other words, I have built the roads that make all other industries in Georgia possible. As black people, and as immigrants, our society labels us as criminals. This criminal status is meant to cause other people to fear us, to make us hate ourselves, and to justify our incarceration, our detention, and our exclusion. By calling us criminals, we are not meant to succeed in this world. But despite these barriers, we are persisting and we are succeeding. I am proof of this. Through the help of Freedom University, I was recently awarded a full scholarship to a college in Delaware and I will start my studies there in January to pursue my interest in sustainable urban agriculture.”
Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, Executive Director of Freedom University and editor of the report, said, “As a teacher at Freedom University, I am one of the few teachers in the world who can say that every single one of my students is undocumented. As a teacher, I can tell you that undocumented young people are brilliant, they are bilingual, they are entrepreneurs, and they are funny, creative, generous, and kind. But as a result of Georgia’s discriminatory policies, they are also battling depression, they are overworked in low-wage jobs, and they are overwhelmed by uncertainty and fear. As a teacher, I am outraged by what I see and what this report also finds: that Georgia’s policies are harming our young people.”
She continued, “As a U.S. citizen and taxpayer, I am outraged that these policies are wasting our tax dollars and harming our economy. Undocumented students and their families are also taxpayers and contributed more than $352 million in state and local taxes in 2012 alone. They are, in effect, funding the universities they are not allowed to attend. By banning undocumented students from admission and in-state tuition rates in Georgia, the report details how we are failing to capitalize on our investment in undocumented students’ constitutionally mandated K-12 education, how we are missing out on $10 million in tax revenue per year, and how we are decreasing the number of highly educated people that we need in Georgia to fill jobs and pay higher taxes.”
Legal expert Azadeh Shahshahani detailed how Georgia Board of Regents’ Policy 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 violate international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The speakers then articulated their demands: that the Georgia Board of Regents consider the negative consequences of restricting undocumented student access to higher education on both undocumented students and citizens alike, and vote to repeal Policy 4.1.6 and 4.3.4.
Charles Black, the former Chairman of the Atlanta Student Movement, closed the press conference with a powerful reading of the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?