On Monday, undocumented immigrant students and documented student allies representing 12 universities staged classroom sit-ins at three Georgia public colleges that ban undocumented students from admission: University of Georgia, Georgia State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Under university policies implemented in 2011, undocumented students are banned from the top five public universities in Georgia and prohibited from qualifying for in-state tuition.
Georgia is one of only three states – including Alabama and South Carolina – to institute an admissions ban against undocumented students in public higher education.
The classroom sit-ins took place on the 56th anniversary of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, which occurred on Feb. 1, 1960 and ignited the youth-led movement for racial justice and integration in the South.
Over 90 students gathered at three campuses affected by these policies to demand that the presidents of each school, Jere Morehead of UGA, Mark P. Becker of GSU and George Peterson of Georgia Tech, publicly denounce the discriminatory policies affecting their institutions.
The actions were organized by Freedom University, an Atlanta-based freedom school for undocumented students in Georgia and the undocumented students were joined by student allies from seven universities in Georgia.
“We’re taking our action to the classroom because we are determined to continue learning together despite the Board of Regents’ insistent segregation,” said Melissa Rivas-Triana, an undocumented student of Freedom University.
Her classmate Victor Morales says he was inspired to participate after learning the history of the Black Freedom Movement in the South: “The Greensboro Four showed me the power of being committed to a goal beyond myself and what it means to be free.”
The classrooms were “integrated” by students wearing hand-painted monarch butterfly wings to symbolize their history of migration.
“These students recognize that higher education is a human right that should be equally accessible to all on the basis of academic merit, not social status,” said Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, the executive director of Freedom University.
“They recognize that educational segregation simply has no place in the 21st century. In this brave and historic action, they are carrying on the great tradition of young freedom fighters in the South and risking everything to show us their vision of a better world,” said Soltis.