Have you read “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream” by Joshua Davis? The book came out in 2014 and the movie in 2015. Davis tells the inspiring, true story of four Latino high school students born in Mexico and raised in Phoenix, Arizona and how they competed against some of the best college robotics teams, including MIT. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.
With immigration being such a hot topic these days, we thought it would helpful to provide you with an update on the Dream Act and federal financial aid funding for undocumented students.
Dreamers: What’s Changed Since 2001
The Dream Act (for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a legislative proposal for a process for illegal immigrants in the United States that would first grant conditional residency and upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency, and eligibility for Title IV financial aid. The bill was first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001 by United States Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch. It has been re-introduced several times but has always failed to pass.
Since 2001, members of Congress have introduced several forms of this bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members in the House passed one such bill on December 8, 2010 by a vote of 216-198, Senators debated a version of the Dream Act on September 21, 2010, but it never came up for a vote. A previous version of the bill, S.2005, which required 60 votes to gain pass, failed on a 52-44 vote in 2007, 8 votes short of overcoming a filibuster by senators opposed to the bill. Similar bills were introduced in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 with never enough support to gain passage.
Dream Act of 2017
In July 2017, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Dream Act of 2017. Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) also introduced the American Hope Act, H.R. 3591, to provide conditional permanent resident status for undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. before their 18th birthday.
The major changes proposed in the Dream Act of 2017 including:
- Expanding eligibility to individuals who meet work or hardship criteria. Previous versions only included college or U.S. military service requirements.
- Repealing section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), which discourages states from making undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition.
In-State Tuition and Title IV Funds for Undocumented and DACA Students
In at least 20 states, undocumented and DACA students are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. Sixteen of those states have enacted state legislation in which eligibility for in-state tuition is based on graduation from a state high school and long-term residence in the state. Some states, such as Indiana, specifically restrict undocumented students from eligibility for in-state tuition, and condition eligibility for in-state tuition on whether the student is lawfully present in the U.S. DACA recipients do not have lawful status, but are considered to be lawfully present in the U.S. Therefore, they may be eligible for in-state tuition in many states or universities. Students should be advised according to their state of residence and particular institutional policies in this regard.
Even at in-state tuition rates, paying for college is often a challenge, especially because DACA and undocumented students are not eligible for state or federal financial aid. Undocumented and DACA students must explore alternative sources of private funding.
Changes Coming for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who match certain criteria previously proposed under the Dream Act.
On August 15, 2012, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. (DACA) program.
As of January 2017, 740,000 people have registered through DACA.
DACA is likely to become front and center in September. While the Trump administration has indicated it will preserve the program, several state attorneys general are threatening to challenge the program in court. Congress also has to pass a funding bill in September and ending DACA is one of the many bargaining chips in the debate.
To be continued…