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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are inadmissible and subject to removal proceedings. 8 U.S.C.S. § 1182(a)(6)(A)(i) provides that an alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled, or who arrives in the United States at any time or place other than as designated by the Attorney General, is inadmissible. 8 U.S.C.S.§ 1229a(a)(2) notes that inadmissible aliens are removable. As DACA recipients, they simply were given a reprieve from potential removal; that does not mean they are in any way lawfully present under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
In 2012, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum ("DACA Memo"), which encouraged government officials not to enforce federal immigration laws against certain children who came to the United States before age 16. The DACA Memo explicitly pointed out that it conferred no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. The individuals who met the DACA Memo’s criteria qualified for what was called “deferred action.” The Georgia Board of Regents has set a Policy requiring Georgia’s three most selective colleges and universities to verify the “lawful presence” of all the students they admit. Under the Policy, applicants who received deferred action pursuant to the DACA Memo cannot attend Georgia's selective schools. Appellants were students who were otherwise qualified to attend these schools, and they filed suit to challenge the Policy, alleging that the Policy violated the Supremacy Clause based on three theories: (i) the Policy was an unconstitutional regulation of immigration; (ii) the Policy was conflict preempted, and the Policy was field preempted. Appellants also alleged that the Policy violated the Equal Protection Clause. The district court dismissed the case, rejecting appellants’ regulation of immigration claim and field preemption claim because it found that the Policy adopted the immigration classifications that Congress set out in the Immigration and Nationality Act ("Act"). The District Court rejected the conflict preemption claim because the DACA Memo conferred no substantive rights, and the Policy was thus consistent with federal immigration law. Finally, the District Court rejected the equal protection claim because it found that appellants were not similarly situated to other noncitizens who were eligible to attend the selective schools. The present appeal followed.
Did the district court err in dismissing the appellants’ suit challenging the Policy as unconstitutional?
The court held that the district court properly dismissed an action brought by students who were Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients challenging a Georgia Board of Regents policy requiring Georgia's three most selective colleges and universities to verify the lawful presence of all the students they admitted and to not allow DACA recipients admission into those schools because the students had not shown that they were lawfully present or that the policy's classifications were inconsistent with federal immigration classifications, the policy did not regulate immigration, the policy was not field preempted or conflict preempted, and the policy did not violate equal protection as it was rationally related to a legitimate government interest, and the students alleged no facts that would show the classification was irrational.