DACA’s End Brings Uncertainty to Dreamers and Scholarship Providers

The Trump Administration’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”)  program has both students and scholarship providers scrambling to assess potential fallout. While individuals with current  DACA status won’t be affected until March 5 of next year—and it is possible Congress will craft a long-term solution in that timeframe—no new applications for DACA status are being accepted.

As background, the DACA program resulted from a 2012 executive order under President Obama to defer deportation for certain people as an act of prosecutorial discretion. Individuals who meet the DACA requirements are not considered to be unlawfully present in the United States while the deferred action is in effect, and may be eligible for employment authorization. To qualify, individuals had to demonstrate that they:

  • Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  • Came to the United States before their 16th birthday;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of request for consideration of deferred action;
  • Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or had lawful status that expired as of June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, completed a GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Although many have lived in the United States for most of their lives, individuals with DACA status (also known as Dreamers)  aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. Many private scholarship providers were comfortable stepping in and filling the funding gap with a program like DACA in place, which provided legitimate (albeit temporary) status. However, pre-DACA, many funders were hesitant to venture in to providing scholarships to undocumented students, fearing that doing so could be considered aiding in the violation of U.S. immigration law. In addition, several states including Colorado, have tied in-state tuition to DACA status.

The stakes are high here for scholarship providers who may be hesitant to continue funding undocumented students in the absence of a program like DACA. However, the stakes are highest for the students themselves, who may lose educational opportunities—and so much more—as a result of this change. However, Colorado’s senators have announced they will co-sponsor the Dream Act 2017, which would give “Dreamers,” who were brought into the country illegally and grew up in the United States, the right to earn permanent residence, and give them a path to American citizenship.

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