Federal appeals court allows Georgia policy barring DACA recipients from enrolling at selective universities

by Kim Boateng Posted on March 8th, 2019

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held Wednesday that a policy of the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia barring the enrollment of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients at Georgia’s most selective universities had a rational basis and was not superseded by federal law.

Three DACA recipients, who would otherwise have been qualified to attend schools like the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology if not for the policy, sued alleging Supremacy Clause and Equal Protection Clause violations.

The students argued that the Board of Regents’ policy violated the Supremacy Clause on three grounds: (1) as an unconstitutional regulation of immigration that does not conform with federal regulations; (2) conflict preemption; and (3) field preemption. The court disagreed, finding that the policy is not an immigration regulation, is not conflict preempted, and is not field preempted.

Even if we assume that Congress does occupy the field of immigration enforcement, that does nothing to help appellants because the [p]olicy is unrelated to immigration enforcement. Nor does the [p]olicy in any way deal with immigration issues over which the Executive has discretion.

The students further argued that strict scrutiny should be applied when determining if the policy violated the Equal Protection Clause. The court decided to use rational basis scrutiny instead.

[T]he Regents could have reasonably concluded that it would be unwise to invest state resources in DACA recipients. Thus, the [p]olicy is rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in responsibly investing state resources.

Therefore, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the policy barring DACA recipients from enrolling at the state’s most selective universities.

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