Hope for Undocumented Students who want to Study in the United States

Statistics indicate that there are almost 12 million undocumented persons living in the United States. Politics has brought this issue to the center stage of American life with many perspectives on the issue being posited by politicians. One of the election pledges of the current administration was to deport millions of undocumented people. This is a huge area of concern for any non citizen who intends to study in the United States, especially those who are out of status. In response, to this election pledge a number of students and faculty from many universities across the United States have launched a campaign to demand that their universities become safe havens for undocumented students.

According to the National Immigration Law Center, undocumented individuals are defined as foreign nationals who entered the U.S. with fraudulent and fake documents without inspection; or legally as non-immigrants, who then violated the terms of their status by letting their visas expire. Apart from the reality based on their legal status, it’s important to remember that many undocumented students are often victims of circumstances that are beyond their control.

Most of them were brought to America by their parents at a very young age. They’ve learned English, completed high school, integrated themselves into communities, and they consider themselves Americans. This is in spite of them being the country illegally.Around 12 million undocumented persons live in the United States, with half coming from Mexico with the others coming from all over the world most notably Asia, South America and Africa. Its worth noting that this population is markedly younger with over 80% being less than 45 years old.Around 30,000 undocumented students enroll to study in universities and colleges across the country every year. Of these, less than 2,000 of these students will graduate. The high rate of the undocumented students not graduating is occasioned by a number of factors. Lack of support, mentoring and financial difficulties are just a few of the factors that the students encounter.It is not easy for undocumented persons to find and get a university or college even though getting a higher education would lead to extremely rewarding opportunities for career and personal advancement.

There are many state laws and national programs that allow undocumented students to attend the university or college of their choice.The following guide will help undocumented students to explore and navigate through the many opportunities that are available to them in order to get these opportunities that will help them achieve their educational goals.Undocumented students with good grades, ample volunteer experience, and high test scores will find that their path to earning a degree may not be as difficult as they expect. There are states that do not allow undocumented students to enroll in public colleges like Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. However, many welcome such students and have put in place protections in place to ensure they can reach their full potential.

Despite their high level of cultural and social assimilation, many undocumented students are faced with financial handicap related to paying their college fees. This is because many are not eligible for state financial aid. There are some states that give such students financial aid like California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington have passed laws to allow in-state tuition benefits for certain unauthorized immigrant students. These laws typically require attendance and graduation at state high schools, acceptance at a state college or university, and promising to apply for legal status as soon as eligible.

At least four state university systems—the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, University of Michigan Board of Regents, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education—established policies to offer in-state tuition rates to unauthorized immigrant students.College degrees are not only desirable, it’s becoming a requirement in the US job market today.With that in mind, it’s all the more important that undocumented students explore the options and resources available to help them obtain a degree.

How to Overcome the Obstacles

Many students believe that their undocumented status will prevent them from attending college. These students may live in fear of being exposed and deported should they apply. This should not be a concern for potential college students as it is against the law for colleges to report a student’s immigration status without their permission.Additionally, they could perceive college as cost-prohibitive because their status makes them ineligible for federal financial aid. While federal financial aid is not an option, there are many financial aid options including scholarships, grants, and private loans to make college more affordable. Undocumented students who are committed to attending college and who fully comprehend the challenges to come can make their educational dreams a reality.

To apply for permanent residency, undocumented students must first leave the country and apply from a foreign consulate. Current law requires that if a person has been in the U.S. without documentation for more than six months after their 18th birthday, they will be banned from returning to the U.S. for between three to ten years. This individual would also become ineligible for a green card as soon as they’ve left the country.There is no direct path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; even marrying a citizen does not guarantee that a green card will be approved. Undocumented students, however, do have cause for hope.

In 2012, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Though this was rescinded by President Trump there is consideration for DACA through the USCIS which after some federal court orders, the USCIS has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA. USCIS is not accepting requests from individuals who have never before been granted deferred action under DACA. Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided in this guidance, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017 qualified undocumented students cannot be deported without legal cause for two years. The program does not lead to citizenship, but it protects undocumented students’ presence in the United States.

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Janet Rangi


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