DACA Continues. What Does it Mean for Dreamers who are College Students?

Trang Nguyen
On June 18th, 2020, The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection policy for thousands of immigrants in the United States. 

What is DACA? 

In 2012, President Barack Obama implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to protect individuals who were brought to the US through illegal means when they were children. Under DACA, Dreamers (a self identification term used by DACA protected individuals) cannot be deported.

DACA operates on a two year renewal basis that takes a recipient legal standing into account. This means that a person who is looking to renew their DACA status must not be convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. 

It is estimated that over 600,000 people are protected from deportation under DACA. The policy  not only protects them from deportation, but also provides them with benefits that help them integrate better within the American society. 

Two very important benefits that come with all DACA are:
  •  The ability to obtain a social security number 
  • The ability to obtain a work permit.
Other benefits vary across states.

Many Dreamers also take advantage of DACA to enroll in higher education. 

How Dreamers Can Go to College

Dreamers who apply to college follow the same process as anyone else. 

Universities are barred from reporting a student’s immigration status to the federal government. 

This means Dreamers who are looking to apply to college should not worry about jeopardizing their immigration status.

Funding Your Education

Dreamers are not able to receive federal aid for their education. However,  if they obtain a social security number, they can use it to file for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). 

The FAFSA form allows DACA students to receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which they can use to apply for private scholarships to fund their education. 

Some states have alternative applications that you must fill out for funding. For example, in California, DACA students must apply for the California Dream Act application to qualify for in-state financial aid, and not the FAFSA. 

Additionally, depending on the state that they currently reside in, Dreamers might be able to qualify for In-State Tuition. This would drastically reduce the amount of tuition a student has to pay. There are currently 21 states who are giving in-state tuition to Dreamers. 

Other states are offer undocumented students state financial aid. Some of these states include California, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Beyond college

Studying abroad or international summer employment are often exciting opportunities in college that some students look forward to. Dreamers can take advantage of these opportunities. 

Although the process of getting legal travel permission can be a long and tedious process, students with DACA status can apply for Advance Parole which allows them to travel abroad for approved reasons like humanitarian, educational or employment reasons. Students must submit the appropriate documentation, such as an acceptance to study abroad program or a letter from employer, 

Although the government may grant you permission to return, you can be prevented from reentry upon arrival upon many variables that you might not have accounted for. If you are a DACA protected student who wants to travel abroad, an immigration lawyer can help you work out the details of your travels.

Still a Long Way from Equitable Education

Unfortunately, even with new protections, the impermanence of an individual’s DACA status may provoke anxiety for students.  

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

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