Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Chasing the Dream: Community Colleges Prepare to Assist Young Immigrants after Obama's Order

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Chasing the Dream: Community Colleges Prepare to Assist Young Immigrants after Obama's Order

Article excerpt

Community colleges are gearing up to play a greater role in providing open access and affordable education to undocumented immigrants since President Barack Obama's re-election, which ensured the continuance of his June 15th executive order offering deferred deportation to eligible young immigrants. That order provided an opportunity for children of illegal immigrants the chance to stay, live, work and study in the country legally.

"Community colleges have traditionally served as the gateway into higher education for the majority of undocumented students," says a report from the Community College Consortium for immigrant Education released in September. "They play an increasingly pivotal role in ensuring access to post-secondary educational opportunities for these young people, and particularly those who may be encouraged to further their education under the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, announced by the Obama administration this past June."

The report, "Dreaming Big: What Community Colleges Can Do to Help Undocumented Immigrant Youth Achieve Their Potential," recommended practices and requirements for colleges to help undocumented students with the application process and continuing further education. CCIE, sponsored financially by the J.M. Kaplan Fund and supported/hosted by Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., was established to provide a national voice for immigrant education.

The report's key recommendations for undocumented students include increasing college access, providing financial assistance, supporting college readiness and success, improving college retention and completion and offering alternatives for adult learners.

On August 15, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting requests for consideration of deferred deportation action for childhood arrivals on a case-by-case basis. By October 10, the Department of Homeland Security announced that nearly 180,000 applications had been accepted for consideration and more than 4,500 eligible youth had received deferred action.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as 1.76 million unauthorized immigrants could gain relief from deportation through DACA. Of that number, about 800,000 are in school (K-12), 390,000 have earned a high school diploma or general educational development certification (GED), 80,000 have a college degree (two-year or higher) and 140,000 are in college. An additional 350,000 unauthorized young adult immigrants without a high school diploma or GED could also potentially be eligible for relief from deportation if they meet the enrollment criteria.

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"While this process does not provide lawful status or a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship, individuals whose cases are deferred will not be removed from the United States for a two-year period, subject to renewal, and may also receive employment authorization," according to the White House.govblog.

Federal bill stalled

A more permanent solution, the proposed federal DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), has languished in Congress in various forms since it was first introduced in 2001 as a way to provide conditional permanent residency to young undocumented residents who meet certain requirements.

Among other requirements of the 2012 executive order, to be considered, young people must show that they came to the U.S. before they were 16 and have lived here continuously since June 15, 2007 and were younger than 31 on June 15, 2012. They may have entered the country without documentation or remained after their legal immigration status expired. The applicants must be in school, have graduated from high school or obtained a GED or been honorably discharged from military service and not have been convicted of criminal behavior. To prove that they are in school, many applicants will need documentation, including transcripts and report cards, from the community colleges they are attending or have attended. …

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