Education News

DeVos blocks aid to deserving college students, including DACA recipients

By Mary Ellen Flannery

While the federal CARES Act has set aside more than $6 billion for emergency financial grants to college students to help them pay for food, rent, childcare, and other expenses during the coronavirus pandemic, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos specifically excluded some immigrant students who desperately need the help.

DeVos blocked DACA recipients—those students who were brought to the U.S. as children, and who participate in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—from taking part in the coronavirus-relief fund. Approximately 216,000 college students in the U.S., or 1 percent of college students, are DACA-mented, according to the New American Economy.

This was “an intentional attack on our immigrant community,” said Sindy Benavides, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) during a recent tele-town hall with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “She did not have to take that action, and yet, she did.”

Appalled, Democratic lawmakers are looking to stop DeVos in their next COVID-related effort. The HEROES Act, a $3 trillion relief package that the U.S. House passed decisively last week, includes a measure that would prohibit the Secretary of Education from excluding populations of students, including those with immigration statuses, from receiving emergency coronavirus-relief aid. 

To urge your Senator to take action on the HEROES Act, which also includes student debt cancellation and $100 billion to maintain student services, avoid educator layoffs, and pay for PPE, visit NEA Education Votes

“I would have used it for food.”

In California, an estimated 800,000 community college students have been harmed by DeVos’ exclusion, including students who have not completed a federal financial aid form for whatever reason and students who are noncitizens, including DACA recipients. Last week, with those students in mind, the California community college system sued the Department of Education.

The legal action has the support of California’s Community College Association (CCA), an NEA-affiliated union. “[We’re] pleased to see the Chancellor’s Office take action to provide to colleges the flexibility they need to help students without the restriction of eligibility requirements. Community college faculty support the education of all California community college students,” said CCA President Eric Kaljumägi.

At San Bernardino Valley Community College in California’s Inland Empire, counselor Tania Laguno says college administrators are attempting to help students by providing access to the campus pantry and with gift cards for groceries, gas, and other essentials. Because San Bernardino is near several Amazon warehouses, which have been deemed “essential businesses” by state lawmakers, some DACA-mented students still have jobs. Others, who work in service industries, such as restaurants, do not.

Some also don’t have computers or internet access, which are now essential to their ability to connect with their professors and continue with their college classes.

Arizona State University junior Andres Mendoza, a special education and elementary education major, is a DACA-mented student who had hoped to access federal support. “I was hopeful that I would get some support. As a community, we’re all hopeful,” Mendoza told a Phoenix public radio show earlier this month. Many of his classmates in ASU’s immigrant-student community would have used the money to buy laptops, or pay for WiFi, he said.

“I would have used it for food and school supplies. That’s what’s most important for me.”

Take action: Learn more about COVID-19 and immigrant communities at NEA EdJustice

6 responses to “DeVos blocks aid to deserving college students, including DACA recipients

  1. Mrs. DeVos simply has to go! Are people aware that her brother is the head of Blackwater, another corrupt group? They both are experts at cheating, stealing, and lying.

    1. Hi Mildred. To answer your question, it’s not that simple. In order to be able to apply for citizenship you must first be a legal resident. Because they were not born here, but were instead brought here illegally as children, they are not legal immigrants and do not fit in any category where they can legally apply. DACA was supposed to address that. They are essentially in a legal limbo even though most of them have lived here all their lives, grown up here, gone to school here, speak with American accents, and know no other country as home.

  2. When the United States hands out money without checking for fraud, the money is lost. These DACA students are trying like crazy to better themselves and their families, and yet DeVos and the Trump clan of right-wingers say to them, “Tough luck. No money for you; your punishment for being brought here as a baby. Keep on suffering.” I applaud DACA students for their perseverance and hope they are able to find a way to become an honorable citizen, entitled to what every other citizen gets. (Sadly a LOT of our citizens aren’t that honorable.)

  3. My question is this: If a student was brought to the United States as a child, and now, as an adult wants to receive money for necessities, why haven’t they not applied for citizenship? Why, as ADULTS are they still non citizens? Is it because they get the same benefits (and many times MORE) than actual citizens get? If so, many must think: “Why bother with getting my US citizenship?” I have nothing against these young people, but I think something is wrong with their values if they don’t bother to get citizenship once they’re adults, but still expect to get the same benefits. My daughter in college worked hard at a part time job while maintaining a high GPA in Bio-Chemistry. Her room mate, who was part of a “minority” watched TV when she wasn’t in class and still got enough government aid to support her. Is that fair!?

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