Silent protest at graduation supports DACA recipients and undocumented students in Georgia

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22 students protested at the 2019 spring commencement ceremony by decorating their graduation caps with the phrase, “Lift the Ban,” in reference to the USG Board of Regents Policy 4.1.6 on Friday, May 10, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. The policy prevents undocumented students for attending the university. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

As the School of Social Work class of 2019 was called to stand at the University of Georgia’s commencement ceremony, a cohort of students held hands and stood, displaying the phrase “Lift the Ban” decorated on their graduation caps.

The students were protesting the University System of Georgia’s ban on the admittance of undocumented students to UGA and its refusal to allow in-state tuition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients.

Recent graduates Erin Ernst, Hannah Murray and Lizeth Montoya joined forces to silently protest the ban after learning of its effects on Georgia students in a Global Social Work & Sustainable Social Development course with professor Jane McPherson.

The protest, officially titled “Lift the Ban,” is focused on the right for all students to receive higher education in their own state, Murray said.

In 2010, the USG Board of Regents instituted Policy 4.1.6, which states “a person who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any University system institution.” Since 2016, Augusta University and Georgia State University — two universities out of five originally listed in the policy— have been allowed to accept undocumented students. These five universities are classified as selective, meaning more qualified students apply than are accepted.

I realized I’m not doing anything wrong — what’s wrong is this policy.

— Lizeth Montoya, UGA graduate

Still, the three other Georgia universities — UGA, Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia College and State University — continue to bar undocumented students admittance. These universities are unable to admit undocumented students because the Board of Regents recognizes these to be the state’s “most selective institutions.”

DACA gives eligible immigrants protection from deportation and a work permit while they seek an education in the U.S. The requirements for this program vary, but students must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and they must have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 years old.

Walking for a cause

After learning about the effects of the policy, Ernst decided she couldn’t graduate from the university without speaking out.

“I announced to my classmates that I’d be protesting the ban at graduation,” Ernst said. “A few decided they also wanted to walk down the stage and leave behind a strong message.”

Soon after, Murray and Montoya moved past their initial hesitations to join Ernst in protesting at graduation.

“At first, the thought of speaking out was scary because I didn’t want to jeopardize receiving my diploma,” Montoya said. “Then, I realized I’m not doing anything wrong — what’s wrong is this policy.”

On April 30, a banner was placed over the Tate Walkway that read, “Did you know that you attend a segregated university?” with Policy 4.1.6 written above. It was taken down by a UGA employee a few hours later. The silent protest is a metaphor alluding to the “voiceless” students who were denied admission into UGA, Montoya said.

Montoya and Ernst’s close loved ones are directly affected by UGA’s ban — Ernst’s boyfriend is a DACA recipient, along with some of Montoya’s relatives.

“I wasn’t born in the U.S. but was able to gain citizenship early on,” Montoya said. “Others in my family, who grew up in Georgia, weren’t as lucky. I protest with them in my thoughts.”

Ernst’s boyfriend moved from El Salvador to the U.S. when he was 6 years old. He now calls Athens home, but he can’t enroll in the university of his choice, Ernst said.

“DACA and undocumented students didn’t choose to be born outside the U.S.,” Montoya said. “I know firsthand how disappointing this ban is to them and their academic ambitions.”

The first part of the students’ protest began at graduation with students displaying ‘Lift the Ban’ on their caps in honor of DACA recipients and undocumented students.

Post-grad Protests

The students will continue to stand in solidarity as they transition into alumni. They vow to continue spreading awareness of the ban and writing letters to the university’s administration in effort to produce change.

“I’m hoping that our actions will bring this issue to light and encourage more alumni and current students to speak out for what they know is right,” Murray said.

After graduation, the three women responsible for coordinating the protest plan to continue focusing on their passion for social justice in their careers.

Murray plans to work with Positive Behavior Supports Corporation, as a Registered Behavior Technician. Ernst will work with Teach For America and teach an 8th grade history class in Nashville. Montoya will work as an advocate for people affected by domestic violence, focusing on the Spanish-speaking community.

“I think we all aspire to make a difference with our protest at graduation but also in our careers,” Ernst said. “The fight for justice in our community will continue.”

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(1) comment



Lets see, we have Democrat / Socialist / Activists in the Northern Triangle of South America

& Mexico; even as you read this instructing the populations the "benefits" & laws of coming

top the USA and to make sure you bring your children and use the the magic

words....."credible fear."

Then you have a Democrat House saying the crisis is "manufactured" as literally thousands

attack our border daily? National Sovereignty is a myth to Democrats. The crisis is

manufactured...by the Democrats themselves. Make no mistake about this, Democrats want

this to happen and never stop.. They will with hold border security support allowing as

many illegal aliens to enter the country as possible overwhelming our BP & ICE before

assisting in border security (if ever).


To Democrats/Progressives/Socialists (whats the difference?) programs like Temporary

Protective Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA) are permanent

programs. There is nothing "temporary or deferred" about these programs to Democrats.

These programs are designed to admit refugees (usually from the third world) then

Democrats fight to keep them here permanently using the charge of racism, religion, guilt

against anyone opposed. Simple formula works great.


Besides the costs, It seems Democrats view U.S. citizens as acceptable collateral damage to

their future long range goals of flooding the country with refugees & illegal aliens and having

taxpayers paying the cost. Democrat politicians and their voters have put families at risk of

being victimized by illegal aliens

The current migration at our border is costing taxpayers a Kings ransom. Fleeing

persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don't stay in Mexico when they reach "safety"

or ask or offered political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them

NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats, and our

tax dollars. Notice how many have made the long, difficult, dangerous journey to our

country 8-9 months pregnant?

Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we

will pass this burden on to our children & grand children as has been passed on to us.

* City emergency services Taxpayer pay for every police, fire, paramedic service call for

illegal aliens in their city. Taxpayers also pay for all hospital, emergency room treatments,

ambulances, medications....everything. Hospital wait times for citizens are negatively


*Cost of educating illegal aliens is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers on average

$122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the millions spent on bilingual

ED, instructors, special need children & day care. It is estimated nearly 100,000 illegal aliens

graduate each year......you do the math. School class size are also negatively impacted by

illegal aliens and our students suffer as a result.

*Taxpayers in some states are funding "in state college tuition" discounts for illegal aliens.

(AZ voted to terminate this taxpayer expense.) Cost to taxpayers over a billion dollars


*About one in five inmates in federal prison are foreign-born, & more than 90% of those are

in the U.S illegally. This does not include local jails and state prisons. At roughly $24,000 per

year expense per inmate.

*$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate, process Illegal aliens in the criminal justice


*$2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP,

WIC, & taxpayer funded school lunches. Visit youtube search "cost of illegal immigration."

*Mexico received 33 billion last year in remittance from our country. $120 billion total was

sent out of the United States in total remittance last year.

*Every child birth by illegal aliens in the U.S is paid for with tax dollars.In the US, the

average cost to have a baby without complications during delivery, is $10,808, which can

increase to $30,000 when factoring in care provided before and after pregnancy (July 9,

2018 google.)

* Section 8 housing. Illegal aliens take full advantage of this program. Citizens & their

families in poverty in many cases wait years behind non citizens for emergency housing.

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