DACA and the Betrayal of the American Dream:
The Implications of the Elimination of DACA 
for Colleges  and Universities
September 2017

The announcement by the Attorney General that the Republican Administration will end the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has created a great deal of uncertainty for the nearly 800,000 individuals who have filed for DACA. Approximately half of the 800,000 have been enrolled in a postsecondary institution in the United States, so the consequences are particularly important for those of us in higher education. Moreover, roughly 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school every year will be denied the benefits of DACA. When DACA ends on March 5, 2018, the expectation is that approximately 250,000 undocumented students will still be in college.

DACA is a federal relief program that gives undocumented immigrant youth protection from deportation and access to a work permit if they qualify under a specific set of provisions, as detailed by the United States Department for Homeland Security.  Students must meet the following conditions:
  • Were under the age of 31, as of June 15, 2012;
  • Arrived in the United States before reaching 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. At that time, students also need to have requested consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated, or obtained a certificate of completion from high school; have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate; or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
DACA is a revenue-neutral program. Nevertheless, some people mistakenly believe that DACA students have been eligible to receive federal student aid.  Students who are DACA eligible do not receive any federal grants, scholarships, loans, or work-study allocations. Instead, they can apply for a work permit to defray the costs of college and find gainful employment upon graduation.
According to 2016 statistics from the Migration Policy Institute, about 1.9 million undocumented young people, ages 15 to 30, have been eligible for DACA.  Roughly 65% of the students eligible for DACA applied for the program. Of those youth who used DACA for educational purposes, 99,000 (8%) completed a postsecondary credential or degree, and 247,000 (20%) completed high school and were enrolled in a postsecondary institution.
A 2016 report by the UCLA Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education found that 85% of participants stated DACA had a positive impact on their education. They reported higher rates of employment, better forms of financial support, better access to transportation, and more stable housing.
As the country faces the elimination of DACA due to the decisions of the Republican Administration, all participants in DACA face specific challenges, and many related issues are germane to those in higher education. In what follows, we first delineate these issues. Then, we consider what postsecondary institutions ought to do with regard to their current students who are undocumented.
Issues for all DACA enrollees
  1.  No new applications are eligible for review.
  2. Those whose permits expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 must reenroll by October 5th for a work permit.
  3. If Congress does nothing, DACA enrollees will begin to lose their work permits when they expire.
  4. Any enrollee can be deported after DACA is eliminated.
Issues specific to college-going DACA enrollees
  1. In many states, such as California (where more than 220,000 DACA enrollees reside), DACA enrollees will still be eligible for state grants and loans; in more regressive states, such as Texas, they will be ineligible for state grants or loans.
  2. Students will be eligible for scholarships from a public or private institution, but they will lose all possibility of getting campus-based employment during the academic year and over the summer when their work permits expire.
Implications for current DACA students:
  1. They face an inability to pay for their college education.
  2. They face having to pay out-of-state tuition in regressive states, which makes the cost of college out-of-reach.
  3. They face an inability to find gainful employment should they graduate from college.
  4. They face the very real possibility of deportation.

Implications and recommendations for colleges and universities
  1. The institution will protect the privacy of its members; it will also not assist with requests for the personal information of students, faculty, or staff based on race, national origin, or religion;
  2. Institutions will ensure that financial resources are available for all DACA students to complete their college studies, including supporting DACA applications and fees in the critical weeks leading up to the October 5th deadline;
  3. A centralized center or office will be created that serves as a clearinghouse for information and support.
  4. Institutions will provide culturally-competent counseling services for a population that faces socio-emotional anxiety.
  5. Colleges and universities will work to overturn the ruling of the Republican administration and get comprehensive immigration reform legislation enacted.
  6. The institution will provide DACA students with direct access to attorneys to help them deal with the legal issues that will arise.
  7. The institution will accommodate any faculty, students, or staff who engage in civil disobedience if members of the academic community are harmed or deported due to targeted federal actions.

This is a joint project of the Pullias Center for Higher Education. The primary contributors are William G. Tierney, Kristan Venegas, Adrian Huerta, Michael Lanford, James D. Ward, and Carlos Galan.