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Georgia's highest court on Monday ruled against a group of young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and wanted access to in-state tuition at the state's colleges and universities.

However, the court decision hinged not on their immigration status, but on whether they were legally allowed to sue the state.

The roughly three dozen young immigrants have temporary permission to stay in the U.S. under a 2012 Obama administration policy. Their lawsuit asked a judge to instruct the university system's Board of Regents to allow them to qualify for in-state tuition.

A Fulton County judge had dismissed the lawsuit, saying it was barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which shields the state and state agencies from being sued unless the General Assembly waives that protection. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling.

"It is settled that the Board is an agency of the State to which sovereign immunity applies," Justice Harold Melton wrote in the unanimous opinion.

The court is severely limiting the ability to challenge the actions of unelected state officials, Charles Kuck, the immigrants' lawyer, said in an emailed statement.

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