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Legislation and Policies
There is an ever-changing set of laws and policies that impact undocumented students as well as students in the DACA program. Here we provide information on the recent history and changes to immigration laws in the United States.
Latest Update: January 20, 2021
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Federal law allows undocumented students to seek admission, enroll in, and graduate from American colleges (public or private). It is against the law for colleges to report a student's immigration status without their permission.
Timeline of major events
Created on June 15, 2012, under the Obama Administration, DACA is a United States immigration policy that temporarily suspends deportation and grants temporary employment authorization to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who pass a background check. The individuals enrolled in the DACA program are frequently called “Dreamers” in reference to the Dream Act discussed below.
The Trump administration rescinded DACA on September 5, 2017.
On June 17, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration's attempt to terminate the program was unlawful and reinstated DACA. The DACA program was restored to its state prior to the September 2017 rescission.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf issued a memorandum on July 28, 2020, that significantly pares down the availability of DACA while the agency decides whether to rescind DACA completely (NILC).
Despite the Supreme Court decision to reinstate the DACA program, on July 28, 2020, the Trump administration issued a memo indicating U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will (1) reject all initial DACA applications; (2) reject all Advance Parole applications from DACA recipients unless there are exceptional circumstances; and (3) shorten the DACA renewal period from 2 years to 1 year. During this time USCIS was not accepting any new DACA applications and plans to reject and return all initial applications submitted to date, with a filing fee. Current DACA recipients should continue to renew their cases although their protection under deferred action and work permit will be valid for only one year instead of two. Note that this policy will change soon with the Biden administration in office.
In January 2021 the Biden administration promised to reinstate the DACA program, ensuring that Dreamers are eligible for federal student aid (e.g., loans, Pell grants). His proposals also include providing Dreamers with access to community college without debt and investing in HBCU/Hispanic Serving Institution/Minority Serving Institutions. Additionally, he proposes to create a roadmap for citizenship for individuals without citizenship status, including Dreamers.
The first version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in 2001. Undocumented immigrants have since been called “Dreamers.”
Since 2001 at least ten versions of the Dream Act have been introduced in Congress. While these various versions of the Dream Act contain some key differences, they all provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented individuals who came to this country as children.
Despite bipartisan support for each bill, none has become law.
*Information adapted from American Immigration Council.
Even though federal law currently (as of January 2021) prevents undocumented students from receiving federal student aid, AB 540 is a California law that allows some nonresident and undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and fees.
Keep in mind that DACA has no effect on eligibility for AB 540 classification or financial aid.
To be eligible for AB 540, students must:
Have attended a California high school for at least three years
Have graduated (or will graduate) from a high school in California or received a GED or passed California High School Proficiency Exam
Have signed the California Nonresident Exemption Request, which states that the student meets all the requirements to qualify for AB 540 status and, if s/he is undocumented, is in the process of adjusting their immigration status, or will do so as soon as they are eligible
Not possess a non-immigrant visa
Learn more about AB 540 and how to apply.
In 2019, CA passed Assembly Bill 1645, which added Section 66021.8 to the Education Code. This Bill requires that each CSU campus designate a Dreamer Resource Liaison and encourages the establishment of a Dream Resource Center on each of their respective campuses. This LIaison and Center have the purpose of assisting students meeting specified requirements, including undocumented students, by streamlining access to all available financial aid, social services, state-funded immigration legal services, internships, externships, and academic opportunities for those students.
At CSUEB we hope to soon have a Dreamer/Undocu Student Center with a Coordinator. Please know that there is an Undocu Task Force at CSUEB working diligently to make this happen.
Legal Resources for Undocumented Students
Seek support, advocacy, and representation in order to better understand your rights, to remain up to date on changing laws, and to protect yourself against discrimination. Check out these key advocacy groups and legal networks below for more:
Promotes education, advocates for judicial protections, and advances cultural exchange around immigration issues and needs.
Sponsored by United We Dream, provides education-specific support for Dreamers.
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR): The division of the Department of Education responsible for providing support, guidance, and advocacy to students seeking protection from exclusion or raising charges of discrimination against an educational institution.
Ready CA Legal Directory: “Catholic Social Service provides low-cost legal services in family petitions, naturalization, humanitarian benefits, and other immigration matters. This organization provides legal services free of charge to immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.”
Immigration Advocates Network Legal Directory: This directory helps you find immigration legal services providers by state, county, or detention facility. It only includes nonprofit organizations that provide free or low-cost immigration legal services.