On Wednesday, the University of California System and the California State University System both agreed to help fund Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students currently in the state.
CARES Act exclusion of DACA students
DACA students, who came to the US illegally as children, had been denied coronavirus stimulus funding in the CARES Act last month. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos had specifically targeted excluding DACA students in the $6 billion set aside for college students in the higher education part of the Act. Currently, Senators in Washington are trying to reverse this part as they claim that Devos had “overstepped her boundary” and that it should be the decision of each institution on who gets what.
“The language in the CARES Act allows DACA recipients to receive these emergency financial aid grants, at the discretion of each individual institution,” said several opposing Senators in a letter to Devos.
The actions by UC and CSU sidestepped the issue by giving to DACA students in their systems directly. The Californian university aid is expected to follow what the CARES Act aid was designed for, namely housing and the move to online classes. Both UC and CSU have said that giving no money to DACA students is ‘unfair’ and would cause more harm than good.
“The University of California is very disappointed that undocumented students, some of the most vulnerable members of our community, are not eligible to access funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” said University of California spokeswoman Sarah McBride in a statement. “However, these students will not be left empty-handed; the University will leverage other institutional funds to replace financial support that these students have been unfairly restricted from accessing.”
700,000 DACA students in the United States
While there are currently around 700,000 DACA students in the United States, 89,000 of whom are in the Los Angeles Metro area alone, about 12,300 currently attend UC and CSU universities. McBride noted in her email that about 1,600 DACA students are in the UC system, only a part of the 4,000 who are illegal immigrants at UC schools.
Ignacio Vasquez, a student in the DACA program who is currently going to college in California, said the need was great for most undocumented students. “I came to the US when I was 3, so this is the only real country I’ve ever known,” explained Vasquez. “My parents worked at several farms, and when I was old enough, I’d do that during the summer too. I had to work hard to get into a good college, and I’ve been living off of almost nothing as I went to college the last several years. Now I’m this close to getting a degree, out of the life of manual labor, but, like many other students, I need that extra money to make it since everything is shut down. It’s make it or break it. And I was denied that.”
“Right now we’re all at varying stages for citizenship, and I thought getting a degree and getting a good job would help with that, so it’s disrupting that too. I want to be a citizen, badly. College was my way. And to be told, simply because I was in through DACA, that I wouldn’t get anything to keep me in college while others got enough to keep them in? It felt terrible. It was like getting hit by a bag of bricks.”
“If CSU hadn’t had done this, I may have had to go back to work with my parents, and that’s not a life anyone should aspire to. My parents said that to me. If CSU, and UC, hadn’t done this they would have condemned thousands of us. Thousands.”
Defending Devos’ decision
Many have defended the decision by Devos, with many colleges not giving funds to DACA students. Many private institutions in California haven’t announced programs for DACA student coronavirus funding, and it’s unlikely to change if the CARES Act holds in Washington as is.
“These students are still not citizens,” said education consultant Tom Shapiro. ” I’ve gotten calls from colleges not only in California but also Texas, Arizona, Kansas, New York, Colorado, and more. These students were left out. But what I could tell them was that stimulus money for COVID-19, especially that noted under the CARES Act, are for citizens who pay taxes.”
“It shouldn’t matter if you’re here under some special program. If you haven’t gone under the process of becoming a citizen, or refused to get citizenship, you don’t get money paid with by taxes.”
“It’s such a simple concept. Citizen? Pay taxes? Here’s money because of all the COVID-19 delays. California in particular just keeps skirting around the laws though.”
The UC/CSU decision follows what the state did several weeks ago in giving a special stimulus check to illegal immigrants who were not covered through the federal program.
While a decision has been made on paying DACA students, it’s unknown at this time the total amount each student will receive or when students will receive the money.
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