Young Undocumented Immigrants May Find College Elusive
MIAMI -- Araceli Cortes had made up her mind: After being brought to the U.S. as a child, graduating from high school and attending some college in California, she was going to return to Mexico to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.
She quit her job, bought an airline ticket and reserved a seat to take a medical school entrance exam.
Then, a week before her departure, President Barack Obama announced that young undocumented immigrants like Cortes would be given the chance to remain in the United States and obtain a work visa. Cortes canceled her ticket and decided to stay.
This week, she and thousands of other immigrants began the application process. But she and many other student immigrants could face some tough obstacles.
"It's not giving me much," Cortes, 20, said. "It's just a two-year permit."
Obama was clear in announcing the order: This was not a path to citizenship, but rather an opportunity to avoid deportation and work.
For the students who are undocumented immigrants and have graduated from college, the new policy means they will have the opportunity to work in their field of study, something they could only do as independent contractors or unpaid interns before.
For younger immigrants like Cortes - as many as 65,000 of whom are estimated to graduate from high school each year - some barriers to earning a college degree will be removed. The main hurdle, however, will remain cost. Federal loans and grants, the largest source of aid for college students, require students to have a green card or U.S. citizenship.
"There's still going to be a challenge for these students to pursue higher education," said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president for policy and research of Excelencia in Education. "I don't think the numbers are going to be high."
Children who are undocumented immigrants have been guaranteed the right to a K-12 education since the 1982 Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court decision.
A growing number of those students are now entering adolescence and early adulthood. They speak English, are part of after-school clubs and sports, and have the same aspirations to attend college as their peers. Yet around the age of 16, they stop having the same opportunities. When most teens get a driver's license, a first job and start thinking about college, illegal immigrant students start to become aware of their status.
"They stay stuck while their friends are moving forward," said Roberto Gonzales, a sociologist at the University of Chicago. "And that has tremendous implications on their own ability to achieve any upward mobility, on issues of self-esteem and on emotional and mental well-being."
The Plyler v. Doe ruling did not address higher education. Rather, individual states and colleges have set their own policies on whether to allow illegal immigrants to attend.
Among undocumented immigrants who are high school graduates between the ages of 18 to 24, 49 percent are in or have attended some college, compared with 76 percent of legal immigrants and 71 percent of U.S.-born residents, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study of 2008 census data.
Jane Slater, who teaches English as a second language at a high school in Redwood City, Calif., said fewer than half of the students who are illegal immigrants at her school go to college.
"There's that sort of hopeless feeling of `Why go?'" she said.
The price of tuition and fees increased 439 percent between 1982 and 2007, while the median family income rose 147 percent, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Parent and student loans, grants and scholarships help the average student pay about 55 percent of the cost, according to a report by Sallie Mae, the largest private lender to students.
Students with no legal status in the U.S. have access to just a slice of those resources. Selected private scholarships are often very competitive because of the limited number available. In a few states, they also qualify for state aid. But in most, they end up having to pay significantly higher tuition. Only 12 states allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state rates.
The majority of those who do enroll attend community colleges but often can afford only one or two classes a semester, or may have to take breaks in order to work full time. That means it takes significantly longer for them to graduate.
Katharine Gin, co-founder and executive director for the Education for Fair Consideration, is optimistic more scholarships from corporations and other funders will become available.
"They were moved by their stories. They felt like they deserved things but said, `How can I justify putting money to these students when they cannot work in the end?'" Gin said. "I think that will change."
Cortes took AP classes in high school and was accepted to every University of California school she applied to. And while California is one of the states that allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, she said it was still too expensive. A private school offered her a $14,000 scholarship, but that would have covered only half the annual costs.
She decided to go to community college instead and found a full-time job as a cashier at a car wash to help pay. Like at many community colleges, the classes she needs to enroll in to study medicine - biology, chemistry - fill up quickly and to get in, she needs a higher credit standing. That means taking classes in other subjects, essentially paying for courses that will have little to do with her medical degree.
Frustrated, she started looking for other options. Her father, who lives in Mexico, helped her fill out the paperwork to apply for a medical school there, but because she canceled her plane ticket, she lost her seat for the exam and won't be able to take it again.
Cortes has read through dozens of news articles online and recorded Obama's speech on the White House lawn, watching it repeatedly and trying to figure out what to do.
"He was very specific in saying, Don't think the wrong way about this," she said. "This is nothing for residency or citizenship."
Cortes went to the Mexican Consulate, which put her in touch with an organization, Dream in Mexico, that helps students find educational opportunities in Mexico. She applied to El Tecnologico de Monterrey and is waiting for a reply.
If she gets accepted and is given a scholarship to cover her fees, she's leaning toward going, even though she applied to stay in this country.
Cortes figures she'll save time, money and could still end up practicing medicine one day in the United States.
"As much as I want to stay here and be with my family, I have to think of the future," she said. "I have to think what's best for me."
What is Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals?
Deferred action temporarily prevents deportation of an individual that resides in the United States without a lawful immigration status. <u>It does not give or result in lawful status</u> for the individual, and can be terminated or renewed at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Deferred action does not excuse any past or future period of unlawful presence, however, individuals whose requests are accepted will not increase their unlawful presence in the country while under the action. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a new directive introduced by the Obama Administration on June 15, 2012. The policy shift will allow individuals unlawfully brought into the U.S. as children, and who meet certain guidelines, to apply for two years of deferred action subject to renewal and termination at the discretion of the DHS. Once deferred action has been granted, individuals qualify to obtain work authorization in the United States if he or she can prove "an economic necessity for employment." Those applying must meet all specified guidelines, but decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD" target="_hplink">Source: USCIS</a>
Who Is Eligible?
Individuals currently in removal proceedings, with final orders for removal or with voluntary departure orders, qualify as long as they are not in immigration detention. Those who are in detention can request consideration for deferred action from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Anyone who meets <strong>ALL</strong> 7 guidelines outlined by the Obama Administration is eligible to request deferred action from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Seven Requirements For Eligibility
Applicants must: 1) Be under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012. You must be at least 15 years of age, with some exceptions.* 2) Have come into the U.S. <u>before</u> the age of 16. 3) Have lived in the U.S. permanently since June 15, 2012. Some travel acceptable.* 4) Have been physically in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and when applying for deferred action. 5) Have entered the U.S. without inspection before June 15, 2012 or have had their lawful immigration status expire since then. 6) Be currently enrolled in school at the time of the request. Also eligible are individuals who have graduated from high school, obtained a GED certificate, or are a honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces. 7) Have not been convicted of a felony, "significant misdemeanor, 3 or more other misdemeanors," and/or are not seen as a threat to national security or public safety. <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD" target="_hplink">*Check USCIS website for details.</a>
How To Apply?
<strong>Before applying</strong>: On their website, the USCIS presents applicants with tips to <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.e8b24a3cec33ca34c48bfc10526e0aa0/?vgnextoid=b9563ab7b8f3b210VgnVCM10000025e6a00aRCRD&vgnextchannel=b9563ab7b8f3b210VgnVCM10000025e6a00aRCRD" target="_hplink">ways to avoid scams</a>. In addition, the USCIS lists <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.e8b24a3cec33ca34c48bfc10526e0aa0/?vgnextoid=0dcc051e2286b210VgnVCM10000025e6a00aRCRD&vgnextchannel=678c051e2286b210VgnVCM10000025e6a00aRCRD" target="_hplink">Before and After Filing Tips</a>, help in finding <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.e8b24a3cec33ca34c48bfc10526e0aa0/?vgnextoid=03be051e2286b210VgnVCM10000025e6a00aRCRD&vgnextchannel=963e051e2286b210VgnVCM10000025e6a00aRCRD" target="_hplink">accredited legal services</a> to aid individuals file for deferred action, and examples of <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.e8b24a3cec33ca34c48bfc10526e0aa0/?vgnextoid=148522800d9bb210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=7a5ca25b1279f210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD" target="_hplink">common scams to avoid.</a> <strong>Applying</strong>: USCIS begins accepting applications on August 15, 2012. Any requests received prior to this date will be rejected. For consideration, individuals must submit the following (next slide) to the USCIS Lockbox.
Forms and Fee
The application consists of: 1) A completed and signed, <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=05faf6c546129310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD" target="_hplink">Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival</a>. Forms should include evidence to support that you meet all 7 guidelines of eligibility. 2) <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=73ddd59cb7a5d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD" target="_hplink">Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization</a> 3) <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Forms/Form Pages/i-765ws.pdf" target="_hplink">Form I-765WS, Worksheet</a> (which establishes your economic need for employment) 4) Filing fees for Form I-765, which total to $465.
All applicants will undergo a background check. Once the forms and fee are received and deemed complete by the USCIS, applicants will receive a receipt notice. The applicant can complete an additional form if he or she <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=d9056d4e88ac3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD" target="_hplink">would like to receive this notice electronically</a>. Afterwards, the USCIS will send applicants notice of their mandatory appointment at an Application Support Center (ASC) for biometric services.
Fee waivers for the work authorization application and biometric collection cannot be requested, very limited exceptions exist.* Denial of deferred action does not mean applicants will be placed in removal proceedings, however under exceptional circumstances cases may be referred to ICE.* Deferred action can be extended past the initial two year period unless terminated. USCIS's determination may not be appealed, though cases can be reviewed in certain circumstances.* Applicants should NOT travel outside of the United States as of August 15, 2012. Doing so will make the applicant ineligible for deferred action consideration. <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD" target="_hplink">*Check USCIS website for details.</a>
How Many People Will Get Relief?
According to The Immigration Policy Center, <a href="http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/who-and-where-dreamers-are" target="_hplink">approximately 1.4 million immigrants in the United States are expected to meet the 7 guidelines</a> of the deferred action initiative, now or in the future. An estimated 936,930 meet those requirements as of August 15, 2012. California (412,560), Texas (226,700), Florida (85,750), and New York (70,170) are the states with the highest number of expected beneficiaries. <a href="http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/who-and-where-dreamers-are" target="_hplink">Click to view complete chart.</a> Mexican immigrants make up almost 70% of those eligible.
Opposition To Deferred Action
<a href="http://www.hstoday.us/briefings/today-s-news-analysis/single-article/dhs-unveils-guidance-for-deferred-action-for-qualfied-young-illegal-aliens/421b6b17eb43472ec0702b4d7c67c602.html" target="_hplink">Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas)</a>, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee: <blockquote>"In order to process the millions of applications from illegal immigrants, the Obama administration will have to divert funding and other resources from processing legal immigration applications. This will lead to a backlog for legal immigrants who followed the rules, while allowing lawbreakers to skip to the front of the line." Adding that the policy shift is an "open invitation for fraud" during the application process. </blockquote> The directive is <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hiVdc_qD32hV9d6M_29OxHtAjM3A?docId=a822d4de77c04dbcb5ba0af5db581166" target="_hplink">expected to cost $585 million. </a> Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in an <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3460_162-57454773/romney-immigration-needs-long-term-fix-not-stop-gap/" target="_hplink">interview with CBS News</a>: <blockquote>"With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is."</blockquote>