To: Dr. Bailey
From: Your Name
Date: February 5, 2012
Subject: Handling of Undocumented Immigrant Students at U.S. Colleges and Universities
Over the past decade, the debate on how to handle undocumented immigrant students has moved to the forefront of upper education. Although currently living in the United States, these individuals do not have the same opportunities to receive a higher education from a college or university as other legal teens and adults. Most undocumented students enter the U.S. at a very young age and make their way through the K-12 education system. After graduation from high school, many of them do not pursue a college education due to federal restrictions, mainly the lack of financial assistance, and they are unable to get legal work after college graduation. U.S. law doesn’t forbid undocumented immigrants from attending and receiving a college education, but it certainly limits it.
Each college and university has different regulations and procedures when handling undocumented immigrant students across the United States. But when it comes to accepting students, there are no federal laws stopping undocumented students from attending a college or university. However, the majority of undocumented immigrant students do not proceed to higher education after high school. Most of which has to do with where the immigrants originally came from since some immigrants have a better chance of attending post-secondary school than others depending on where they immigrated from and what type of income their parents have (Anonymous, 2011). Those coming from Latin America or Mexico tend to have lower-income households and because they can barely survive in the U.S. as it is, they do not have enough to help pay for their children’s education. According to Sandy Baum, “Immigrant youths from some countries find the doors to the nation's colleges wide open” (Anonymous, 2011). Although these immigrants are U.S. citizens, they are still able to attend college even without documentation; some just have a better opportunity than others based on their family background.
Up until very recently, undocumented immigrant students had no hopes toward receiving any type of financial aid or scholarships. It didn’t matter how smart they were, without immigration papers, undocumented students couldn’t receive any form of aid from the government or private donor (Alarcon, 2012). Without financial assistance, many of them couldn’t afford the high education cost and since they didn’t have immigration papers due to their alien status, they are unable to gain “legal” jobs to help pay for it.
Over the past few years, the DREAM Act has surfaced to assist undocumented immigrant students remain in the U.S. and receive an education. The DREAM Act “empowers this country to grant a special class of lawful permanent resident status to someone who was brought to the US by others at a very young age and has grown up as an American” (Leppala, 2012). They recognize that a lot of the younger undocumented immigrants were brought here by their parents and were not directly their actions. Since they basically grew up as “Americans,” many states are trying to find ways in which the undocumented immigrant students can continue their education, especially after passing through and graduating from the standard K-12 education system. The act isn’t a simple free pass though. “This new Dream Act must thus require an educational achievement, such as a vocational certificate or college degree, as a prerequisite to gaining legal resident status” (Leppala, 2012). One of the latest DREAM Acts to be signed was in Illinois which is allowing private scholarships and other funds to be given to undocumented immigrant students to assist in their post-secondary education costs and provide them with similar opportunities to receive an education that their classmates have (Illinois DREAM Act Becomes Law Amid Immigration Reform