Supreme Court Decision on DAPA, Expanded DACA Affects Low-Income Students and Their Families

Posted By Monica Harvin on July 1, 2016 at 5:13 pm
Supreme Court Decision on DAPA, Expanded DACA Affects Low-Income Students and Their Families

Whether they know it or not, the Supreme Court just struck a severe blow to low-income students around the country. The split 4-4 decision made by the US Supreme Court came in response to the lawsuit brought by Texas and 25 other states against President Obama’s executives orders for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Expanded DACA). The court’s decision reinforces the barriers many low-income, first-generation students from mixed immigration status families face in getting a college degree and actively contributing to the US.

According to the Silberman School of Social Work, approximately 16.2 million people live in mixed immigration status families. The effect of a 4-4 decision means President Barack Obama’s executive order granting deportation protection to the undocumented parents of US citizens or lawful permanent residents will continue to be suspended. It also means young students currently attending the nation’s schools who would’ve qualified for expanded DACA will graduate from high school with fewer opportunities. Many will be denied in-state tuition in some states, in addition to not having permission to work and contribute to the country in which they’ve grown up.

What the Supreme Court decision means for higher education

Facing low graduation rates and an increasing number of students who are first in their families to attend college, universities are recognizing the need to create educational supports for students. The Supreme Court’s ruling on DAPA and expanded DACA represents a major challenge to these efforts, by reinforcing the socio-economic obstacles that students from mixed-status families confront in getting into, paying for and graduating from college.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 36 percent of families potentially eligible for DAPA had incomes below the federal poverty level, compared with 22 percent of all families with immigrant parents and 14% of families with U.S.-born parents between 2009-2013. Families eligible for DAPA earned a median income of just $31,000 per year, according to the study. This is $12,000 less per year compared with all immigrant families and about $16,000 less than families where both parents are U.S. born.

An overwhelming majority of the US citizen and legal resident children in these families would be first in their families to attend college, as 57% of the potentially DAPA-eligible parents with minor children do not have a high school education. And, 79% have no college experience nor any type of college degree, according to MPI.

The Supreme Court’s divided decision means that the families of many first generation college students will continue to be relegated to low-wage labor, less able to contribute to higher education expenses for their children, and continue a vicious cycle of limited access to higher education for these low-income students.

DACA, in-state tuition laws not affected by the ruling

The first DACA order is not affected by the recent ruling and it remains fully in place. This earlier order opened up possibilities for work and study for many previously undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. as children. The expanded DACA would’ve protected close to 300,000 more young people currently attending the nation’s public schools. Many of these students walked across high school graduation stages after the Supreme Court’s decision was made, their futures continue to hang in the balance.

In addition, many of the states involved in the lawsuit, including Florida, Kansas Utah, and Nebraska, have tuition equity laws providing undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates. Texas is one of the few states where undocumented students can receive state-supported financial aid.

“The SCOTUS 4-4 deadlock might create confusion around in-state tuition policies and programs across the country. We saw this when the injunction began. Some folks thought that it meant states also had a hold on their state policies,” Laura Bohorquez, Education Equity Organizer at United We Dream tells GoodCall. “States who have in-state tuition policies and/or scholarships will still be in place because they were based off of DACA 2012. For example, Virginia will still have in-state tuition for DACA recipients.”

“DACA 2012 is still on and educators must make sure their students know so they can apply. The same challenges exist as before. Given the heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric and immigration raids undertaken by President Obama, it’s more important than ever that schools and educators make plans to protect their students and their families regardless of their immigration status. It is there responsibility morally and legally,” says Zenen Perez, Policy and Advocacy Analyst at United We Dream.

Bohorquez adds that for more information on the rights of undocumented students, educators and students can refer to the United We Dream Guide on Immigrant and Refugee Children, as well as the US Department of Education’s Resource Guide on Supporting Undocumented Youth.

Moving forward

A recent study by the Migration Policy Institute reveals that the bulk of the current population of undocumented individuals who would benefit from DAPA or expanded DACA actually reside in states that were not part of the lawsuit. These states, such as California and New York, are home to some of the largest numbers of undocumented individuals and have been at the center of efforts to expand access to higher education and allow undocumented students to obtain professional licenses to put their degrees to work for the state and the nation.

The court’s decision represents a setback for these state-led initiatives. Yet, national organizations like United We Dream, as well as state-level organizations like the New York Immigration Coalition are already issuing calls to action and organizing to continue the work that’s been done. And, they are joined by many Members of Congress.

Representative Xavier Becerra (D) of California said in a press release following the decision, “Our fight is not over. The Department of Justice should seek a rehearing before a full Court. We won’t stop fighting for immigrant rights and we won’t stop fighting to keep families together.” Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) of California also said: “The court’s decision means that more immigrant families will be at risk of separation, more undocumented parents will be forced to stay in our nation’s shadows, and more noncitizens will be unable to contribute their talents in support of America’s communities and economy.”

Monica Harvin
Monica is a GoodCall contributing editor, covering personal finance and education. She's also GoodCall's diversity expert, with a master's degree in Latin American studies from UCLA and bachelor's degree in history from the University of Florida.

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