Class of 2022 Undocumented High School Students Have Fewer Opportunities Than Undocumented Peers in Years Past
WASHINGTON, DC – New FWD.us analysis estimates that the 100,000 undocumented young people expected to graduate from high school this spring will encounter greater challenges than previous classes of undocumented graduates, potentially furthering critical workforce gaps and slowing our economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
These students are part of the larger 2.8 million-strong community of Dreamers who came to the U.S. as children and have spent most of their lives in this country. Yet, the class of 2022 will be one of the first graduating classes where the overwhelming majority of undocumented graduates are ineligible for DACA because they entered the U.S. after June 15, 2007, the cut-off date for DACA eligibility. The small share of this year’s undocumented high school graduates who might be eligible for DACA are limited in accessing its protections as the courts prepare to rule on a lawsuit that could jeopardize the entire DACA policy. Without DACA, these graduates will not have access to work authorization to support themselves, their families, and their education.
This year, many other undocumented high school graduates around the country will be denied equitable tuition rates, severely limiting their career and education prospects. Around 43,000 of this year’s undocumented graduates live in one of 28 states where they are denied full tuition equity, despite being residents, even with most having attended public schools from an early age. This dramatically reduces many students’ ability to pay for higher education especially as undocumented students are also ineligible for federal financial aid, including loans and grants.
“I am a part of the generation of Dreamers that have been left out of the DACA program because I arrived in the U.S after 2007. Graduating from high school as an undocumented student was extremely daunting and heartbreaking. I was accepted to the school of my dreams but was unable to attend because I did not qualify for financial aid due to my status,” said Karen Nuñez Sifuentes, Program and Engagement Coordinator at ConVivir Colorado. “Thankfully, I was able to attend MSU Denver which offered in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students, but the roadblocks didn’t stop there. Despite having a degree in biochemistry, I can’t work anywhere that requires employment authorization such as a federally funded research lab. Once again, I had to let go of another dream, my aspiration to pursue a career in science, due to the limitations I tried so hard to work around, but there is no solution for Dreamers like me.”
These barriers unnecessarily and unfairly limit undocumented graduates’ ability to participate in the workforce, grow the economy, and contribute to their communities. Additionally, it is a tremendous waste of years of K-12 education that states have invested in every student to prevent them from going further in their careers, and another cruel roadblock they face in the country they call home. With more than 600,000 K-12 undocumented students enrolled in U.S schools, hundreds of thousands of future high school graduates will continue to face limited options without immigration relief.
The U.S. economy cannot afford to lose, perhaps permanently, this graduating class of undocumented students. States can provide opportunities to undocumented residents by allowing them access to in-state colleges at in-state tuition rates and by providing additional resources for the recruitment of undocumented students. Congress and the Biden Administration must ensure that undocumented high school graduates this year, and for years to come, can financially support themselves and continue their education in the U.S by immediately establishing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including DACA recipients and Dreamers.
Read the new analysis from FWD.us: The Post-DACA Generation is Here: Most of this year’s 100,000 undocumented high school graduates are currently ineligible for the policy