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Can undocumented children go to college?

On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2018 | Immigration Law

Many undocumented children have no idea that they are undocumented. It’s not something they think about. For a lot of them, they think of the United States as home. They came to America when they were far too young to consider legal immigration and what coming in without proper documentation really meant.

One girl’s story

For instance, one young woman was born in Mexico. When she was just 3 years old, her parents took her to California. They were undocumented, and they stayed that way.

The young girl had no idea that she wasn’t a legal immigrant until she reached her senior year in high school. When it was time to apply for financial aid, she found out that she did not have a Social Security number.

This made things more complicated. “I had to fill out applications on my own,” she said later. “Because I was the only one undocumented in my class going to a four-year university, my high school counselors couldn’t help me.”

She was eventually able to get into UCLA, using the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Essentially, it protects people from deportation if their parents brought them into the country as children — after all, they had no idea what was happening at the time — so that they can go to school.

These kids grew up in America. Deporting them to a country they can’t even remember living in doesn’t make much sense. The DACA program helps them create a productive life for themselves, and this young woman went on to graduate with a college degree. It was quite an accomplishment and something her parents never did.

Challenges to DACA

The DACA program has faced recent threats as the current administration has talked about repealing it. So far, that decision has run into serious legal challenges and the program remains in place. In fact, the young woman from the above example only graduated because she got to renew her employment authorization after these challenges. Had the program really gotten repealed, it could have seriously impacted her future.

Fortunately for her, UCLA allows many undocumented young people to enroll as students. The school was able to help her get everything in order so she could pursue her dreams just like any other American student.

However, it will be very important for students and their parents to keep an eye on any legal changes in the future. The threat of deportation remains, and it could get worse. If it does, they need to be well aware of all of the legal options they have and what steps they need to take to protect their bright futures.