In September 2017, President Donald Trump further increased this hostility by rescinding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program enacted by former President Barack Obama which granted work permits for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16. A core component of DACA is that it helps thousands of undocumented students access higher education.
Before DACA was enacted, nearly 70,000 students were graduating from high school each year with unimaginable barriers to college. Although some states have passed the DREAM Act, there is not a uniform nationwide policy that allows universities to grant in-state tuition or state financial aid benefits to undocumented students. Additionally, undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid, including Pell Grants, making higher education nearly impossible for them to afford. However, with DACA status, several states offer DACA-specific provisions which allow for in-state tuition and other subsidies for undocumented students, making college much more accessible.
They are impacted socially and emotionally, mainly due to the fact that they are now facing uncertain prospects after graduation. For these students, college now feels like a dead-end if they are unable to work upon graduating. Moreover, the national conversation around DACA recipients often focuses on criminalizing their parents or lamenting over the economic impacts this will have on the country – grossly oversimplifying such a complex issue by continuing to strip DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants of their humanity.
Many undocumented students relied on their DACA work permits to pay for the costs associated with higher education, and if they can no longer work their way through school, they will not be able to make ends meet. The repeal of DACA could also cause a decline in enrollment among prospective students who are having a hard time envisioning the benefits of college if they’re unable to join the workforce after graduation, greatly limiting their life choices.
The future of thousands of students hangs in the balance while Republicans and Democrats decide if they’re going to enact laws that create paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The push for a nationwide DREAM Act is in full swing following Trump’s decision to rescind DACA. On Nov. 9, nationwide walkouts swept the country to urge Congress to pass a clean version of the DREAM Act by Dec. 15. Follow organizations such as United We Dream and #HERETOSTAY to stay involved in the fight for a national DREAM Act.