Ready to Launch: DACA Resources for Learners, Educators and Parents

daca guide to college

Transitioning from high school to college can be a complex journey for any student.  You’re navigating applications, figuring out financial aid, and most importantly, picking out your roommate.

But for undocumented students or DACA recipients, getting to college is even trickier.

DACA, introduced by the Obama administration in 2012, has been a lifeline for many young immigrants brought to the United States as children. It offers temporary protection from deportation and allows recipients to work legally in the U.S.

daca recipients make up only 0.7% of college students

While it doesn’t provide a path to citizenship, DACA has helped countless young people pursue their educational and career goals without the constant threat of deportation.

Understanding the ins and outs of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a top priority for these students as they begin to navigate their educational paths.

President George H.W. Bush famously said, “Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.”

Are you ready to travel that bridge? Whether you’re just starting to think about college or are already knee-deep in the application process, we hope this resource provides some valuable insights and guidance.

The History of DACA

To recap, DACA is an immigration policy that allows certain individuals who were brought to the United States as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

The primary purpose of DACA is to provide some stability and relief, allowing immigrants to live, work, and study in the United States without the constant fear of being deported. It was established by an executive order from President Barack Obama in June 2012. 

The creation of DACA was a response to the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which aimed to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to qualify for DACA, applicants must meet several criteria, including:

  • Being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
  • Having come to the U.S. before reaching their 16th birthday.
  • Having continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
  • Being physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of applying.
  • Having no lawful status as of June 15, 2012.
  • Being currently in school, having graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, having obtained a GED certificate, or being an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.
  • Not having been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and not otherwise posing a threat to national security or public safety.

Since its inception, DACA has faced numerous legal challenges and significant events, including:

  • 2014 Expansion Attempt: The Obama administration attempted to expand DACA and introduce DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), but these efforts were blocked by a federal court.
  • 2017 Termination Attempt: The Trump administration announced plans to terminate DACA, leading to widespread protests and legal challenges.

In June of 2020, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA, deeming the termination procedure “arbitrary and capricious.” However, this decision did not address the program’s legality, leaving the door open for future legal challenges.

Over the years, various legislative attempts have been made to protect or replace DACA as well, including:

  • The DREAM Act: Multiple versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced in Congress, aiming to provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented youth. Despite bipartisan support, the act has not yet been passed.
  • American Dream and Promise Act: This bill, passed by the House of Representatives in 2021, seeks to provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants. It is currently awaiting Senate approval.

The Current State of DACA Legislation

The Biden administration has notably shown strong support for DACA, issuing executive orders to preserve and fortify the program. These actions have brought some stability to DACA recipients, but legislative efforts are still needed to provide a permanent solution. 

The administration continues to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

As of now, DACA remains in place, but its future is uncertain due to ongoing legal battles and political debates. The Biden administration is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform to provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients (and to provide additional benefits, like expanded health coverage).

While there is strong public and bipartisan support for providing a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, achieving consensus in Congress remains a challenge.

Key DACA Statistics

DACA recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers,” come from diverse backgrounds. According to recent data:

DACA recipients are distributed across the United States, with the highest concentrations in states such as California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida. These states have large immigrant populations and offer significant support for undocumented students.

daca recipients pay billions in taxes

Recommendations for College-Bound DACA and Undocumented Students

If you’re a college-bound DACA or undocumented student, here are some tips to help you navigate the process with relative ease.

Seeking Legal Guidance

As a DACA or undocumented student, it may be a good idea for you to consult with a legal expert or immigration attorney to get a better idea of your rights, options, and the potential risks associated with pursuing college. 

Similarly, take the time to check college policies regarding admission requirements for DACA and undocumented students. Some schools may have specific guidelines or resources available for applicants who are in your type of situation. 

Even if you think you have a good grasp on what it takes to be successful as a DACA or undocumented college student, make sure you stay up-to-date on changes in immigration policies, particularly those affecting education.

Finding the Right College

When you’re choosing a college, consider factors such as location, size, academic programs, campus culture, and support services for undocumented students. Look for schools that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion and have strong support systems in place for DACA recipients.

There are several colleges and universities that are particularly well-known for their support of DACA and undocumented students. Some of these institutions include:

  • University of California (UC) system
  • California State University (CSU) system
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • Pomona College
  • New York University (NYU)
  • Loyola University Chicago

These schools offer resources such as specialized advising, financial aid, and legal support to help undocumented students succeed.

Navigating Financial Aid

Many scholarships and grants are available specifically for DACA and undocumented students. Organizations like TheDream.US, MALDEF, and Hispanic Scholarship Fund offer financial assistance to help cover tuition and other expenses. 

Not only that, but some colleges have institutional scholarships for undocumented students. Research and apply for as many opportunities as possible to maximize your chances of receiving aid. 

Here are a few more tips for finding and applying for financial aid as a DACA student:

  • Start Early: Begin your search for scholarships and financial aid opportunities well before application deadlines.
  • Use Online Resources: Websites like Fastweb and College Board can help you find scholarships tailored to your needs.
  • Read Requirements Carefully: Make sure you meet the eligibility criteria for each scholarship or grant you apply for.
  • Submit Complete Applications: Provide all required documents and information to avoid delays or disqualification.
  • Seek Guidance: Reach out to counselors, mentors, or organizations that support undocumented students for assistance with the application process.

Connecting With Support Services

Take some time to seek out on-campus resources. 

Tutoring, career coaching, and counseling are valuable services for any student. 

However, as a DACA student, you should go one step further. There are countless resources, like immigrant student organizations, multicultural centers, or DACA-specific counseling services, that can provide you with additional guidance, support, and most importantly, a sense of community.

The Takeaways

As a DACA or undocumented student, you have the potential to contribute in wonderful ways to the economy, culture, and success of the United States. Take advantage of these resources and enjoy the college journey – receiving an education can be challenging, but it’s the best way to secure a bright path for your future.

Follow your dreams, and dream big. As Charles B. Rangel famously said, “The promise of the American Dream requires that we are all provided an equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to our nation.”

DACA may be able to help give you that opportunity – so take advantage of these doors that are being opened for you.

daca recipients receive advanced degrees

Important DACA Resources for Learners, Educators and Parents

This resource list is for anyone looking to learn more about how to support DACA students and for DACA And Dreamer students in their quest for education.

Impact on Learning 

Issue Brief: The Impact of Undocumented Status on Children’s Learning 
Chelsea Connery designed an article around undocumented status and how that status affects kids when it comes to their overall educational needs.

I Didn’t Ask to Come to This Country…I was a Child: The Mental Health Implications of Growing up Undocumented 
More than one million Latinos remain undocumented after being born in the United States, and this article discusses some of the effects that status has on their mental health. 

U.S. Citizen Children Impacted by Immigration Enforcement 
The American Immigration Council found that more than 16 million Americans have an undocumented relative and talks about how enforcement actions and policies impact them.

The Impact of Undocumented Status on Children’s Learning: Implications for Schools 
Learn about the impact that their citizenship status have on undocumented students and what it means for their education now and later in this piece from the University of Connecticut.

Undocumented Students 
The National Association of Secondary School Principals used this page of their website to provide undocumented students with resources on state laws and how they can get access to higher education.

Growing Up Undocumented 
Itziri Gonzalez-Barcenas is an undocumented person whose mother was detained by border enforcement in 2001 and uses this article to talk about that experience and others.

Growing Up an American Child of Undocumented Parents 
Released in 2022, the documentary “Mija” is the focus of this article which looks at the experiences of those involved as well as how the film makes viewers think about undocumented people.

The Sins of the Fathers: The Children of Undocumented Immigrants Pay the Price 
Writing for the American Immigration Council, Alfredo Gutierrez goes over the troubles that plague the children of undocumented immigrants and how it impacts their future lives.

How Undocumented Students Are Turned Away From Public Schools 
Tim Walker uses this article to focus on how the policies that relate to undocumented students led to changes in the education world and led to more of those students looking for alternative schools.

In High School

Undocumented Students in Oregon 
Oregon Gear Up offers this PDF as a guide for undocumented students in the state who need help learning about immigration laws, applying to college, paying for school, and achieving success.

Options for Undocumented High School Students 
The challenges don’t end when students graduate, which is why this guide is so helpful as it goes over the options for high school graduates and those who didn’t finish school.

Undocumented Students in High School: Supporting Access to Higher Education 
Undocumented students who want to learn about the solutions and options that are available to them can use this site that includes useful tips along with some free resources.

Six Things Undocumented Students Need to Know About College 
Undocumented students often worry about how they can attend college or pay for it, but this article goes over the six things they need to know, such as which schools will accept them 

Resources for Undocumented Students 
My Undocumented Life collected a helpful list of free resources for undocumented high school students that includes how to apply for college and financial aid and the available work opportunities. 

The Post-DACA Generation is Here 
FWD looks at the more than 100,000 undocumented students who graduate high school every year and how government policies and other barriers affect them. 

Undocumented High School Students Are Now the ‘Post-DACA Generation’ 
Nadia Tamez-Robledo uses this piece to discuss the lack of legal protections for undocumented students and what will happen if they don’t get the support they need.

Support Undocumented Students 
Discover how you can support undocumented students in your community in this piece, including giving them a safe space and knowing how to protect their educational records. 

Overview Of Undocumented Students 
Immigrants Rising offers an overview of undocumented students in the United States that includes where they live, how much education they have, and how many attend college. 

Making College Dreams a Reality for Undocumented Students 
The National Association for College Admission Counseling provides undocumented students with tips on how they can attend college, such as sharing their status and doing well in high school. 

Advising Undocumented Students 
Guidance counselors will find this site helpful as it helps them learn how to advise undocumented students, including the policies and barriers students face and how state laws vary.  

Advocacy and How to Help 

Urge Congress to Enact a Permanent Solution for Dreamers 
Let Congress know how you feel and urge them to find a permanent solution for the undocumented Dreamers in the nation on this website, which lets you email your rep in minutes. 

Tips to Meet with a Member of Congress 
The National Immigration Forum provides a helpful list of tips on how you can arrange a meeting with a Congress rep and what you should do to prepare for the meeting. 

Talking Points about Dreamers 
Also from the National Immigration Forum, this PDF gives you a list of talking points you can use during meetings and other events that focus on the challenges of Dreamers. 

Dream Act 2023 Legislation 
The National Immigration Forum provides a detailed look at legislation relating to the Dream Act of 2023 here, such as what it would cover and the percentage of Americans who support it. 

American Dream and Promise Act of 2023 
Read through this summary of the American Dream and Promise Act of 2023 to see what it covers, the protection it offers for Dreamers and their families, and who can use it. 

United We Dream 
United We Dream is an organization that offers help and resources for the undocumented in need, including education, justice, and deportation guidance along with info on their rights and healthcare. 

15 Ways to Advocate for Undocumented Youth 
If you want to know how you can advocate for undocumented young people in your area, check out the 15 tips here, such as involving their parents, offering more resources, and providing them with referrals. 

For Educators: Supporting Undocumented Students & Their Families 
Informed Immigrant helps teachers and others find the best ways to help undocumented students and their families, including resources for elementary, middle school, and high school students. 

Guide for Teachers Helping DREAMers 
Whether you’re a teacher or just spend time around students, this guide goes over how you can support and help Dreamers in 10 ways as well as what the students need to know. 

Higher Education as an Ally: Supporting a Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Students 
Learn how higher education serves as an ally for undocumented students on the road to citizenship and discover more about DACA in this piece that includes links to legislation. 

Policy Impacts and Advocacy Options to Support Undocumented Students on Campus 
Though released in 2021, this online article still provides some helpful tips and information on how to support undocumented students in college, such as how to write the politicians in power. 

Support Undocumented Students 
All of the tips on this site give you practical ways to help and support undocumented students, including pairing them with other students, telling them about deferred action, and going over the Dream Act. 

Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias

Huddled Mass or Second Class? Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias in the U.S. 
The ADL designed this lesson plan for elementary, middle, and high school classes as a way to help teachers talk to their students about the Alien Registration Act and other programs. 

Immigrants Overwhelmingly Say They and Their Children Are Better Off in the US, But Many Also Report Substantial Discrimination and Challenges 
Find the results of a major survey between The Los Angeles Times and KFF of more than 3,000 people about the experiences they had with discrimination in the country. 

Native Bias: Overcoming Discrimination Against Immigrants 
From Princeton University Press, this publication focuses on how discrimination grew during the COVID-19 pandemic and the best ways to overcome those thoughts.

Discrimination Against Immigrants in Society with Examples 
The United Way of the National Capital Area defines xenophobia here and looks at how it changed over the years along with examples of discrimination in the workplace. 

Learn about the hate groups that exist today in this article, which also looks at the key moments that led to a rise in hate groups in the United States. 

Hate at School Report: Anti-Immigrant 
The Hate at School report comes from the Learning for Justice organization and includes a hierarchy of groups discriminated against and what immigrants hear from others.

The Effects of Perceived Discrimination on Immigrant and Refugee Physical and Mental Health 
Two researchers worked on this piece to look at the effects discrimination has on refugees and immigrants, especially regarding their mental and physical health. 

US State Spending Historically Biased Against Immigrant, Nonwhite Communities 
Sandra Knispel talks about the link between immigration and state funds from the 1920s through the 1960s and how this link still affects the biases that exist today. 

Predominant Stereotypes About Immigrants Today 
Re-imagining Immigration offers this article for free to members to help them learn about the common and predominant immigrant stereotypes in the modern world. 

Moral Reasoning and Anti-Immigrant Bias: Experimental Evidence from University Students in Germany and the United States 
In this journal article, you’ll see the evidence researchers found as they examined anti-immigrant biases and how they compare between students in the U.S. and Germany.