WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has helped about 640,000 undocumented immigrants attend college in the United States.
The social security number issued to undocumented immigrants through DACA also allows them to access grants, financial aid and in-state tuition rates in at least two dozen states, American Progress reports.
“Undocumented young people face a number of barriers when it comes to accessing and obtaining higher education, such as paying tuition and living expenses; obtaining a job to support themselves and, often, their families while studying; and overcoming other psychological obstacles such as anxiety, stress, and feelings of exclusion,” according to the web site.
“Having the temporary protections and work authorization that DACA provides helps with all of these issues.”
The “progressive” nonprofit reports that the federal government has approved about 88 percent of the 720,000 applicants for the DACA program, or about 640,000, as of January 2015. The program could expand by another 300,000 based on immigration directives issued by Obama in November that broadened eligibility.
Those directives, however, are currently on hold pending a court case in which dozens of states are suing the federal government to stop the move.
In the meantime, states are dealing with DACA students in different ways.
“On April 29, 2014, the Virginia attorney general advised that Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States under the DACA program qualify for in-state tuition,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A total of 24 states allow DACA students to pay in-state rates and apply for grants, American Progress reports.
The DACA status also boosts income.
“In a survey done by Harvard University sociologist Roberto Gonzales of DACA-eligible youth, 60 percent of beneficiaries reported obtaining a new job and 45 percent reported increased earnings,” according to American Progress. “In many cases, DACA has significantly improved the financial position of beneficiaries by allowing them to work shorter, more regular hours and earn fairer wages – all of which help eliminate stress and anxiety.”
What it boils down to is students who receive DACA relief from deportation are a lot more at ease and a lot more financially comfortable in their new situation than they were before.
“In a University of California, Los Angeles, study, undocumented undergraduate students reported high levels of anxiety because of their lack of legal status. DACA has helped build a sense of inclusion among these students, allowing them to integrate into their institutions and mainstream society,” according to American Progress.
“In a survey by University of California, San Diego political scientist Tom Wong, 64 percent of undocumented Millennials stated that they felt ‘a greater sense of belonging in the United States’ after receiving DACA.”
American Progress argues that the financial and emotional benefits undocumented immigrant students receive from their DACA status are reason enough to expand the program further through Obama’s November directives, which push back dates for age and residency requirements.
But the advocacy group contends that’s not nearly enough.
“To completely eliminate these barriers, Congress needs to pass immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for all America’s undocumented immigrants in order to provide them with equal access and inclusion in higher education and the economy,” according to the American Progress website.