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Young undocumented immigrants face student aid obstacles

The Homeland Security's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has given young undocumented immigrants -- who were brought to the United States by their parents as young children and meet several other qualifications -- the opportunity to avoid deportation. Many young people in this group are attending college, or wish to, to further their education and job prospects. A problem they face, however, is that they are blocked from receiving student aid.

Federal financial aid programs, as established by Congress, simply are not available to undocumented immigrants, even those who qualify for the deferred action program to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Indeed, under current applicable rules, the undocumented students are not even allowed to apply. While it is true that many individual states have their own college student aid programs, in many instances, qualifying for them is tied to the federal programs.

Additionally, many state college aid programs are already overwhelmed by the poor economy, budget cuts, the rising cost of tuition and the increased number of applicants. While some have attempted to make changes that would make state college financial aid more available to young undocumented immigrants seeking to better themselves and support their families, there is still much opposition from lawmakers and the general public. What seems particularly unfair, though, is that undocumented immigrants will work and pay taxes, contributing to state revenues which fund student aid programs.

There are, some estimate, as many as 1 million young undocumented immigrants who may qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. While the program allows qualifying young people to live and work in the United States, it does not grant them legal resident status or carve a path to citizenship.

Source: The News Tribune, "Immigrants face fight over college funding," Manuel Valdez, Sept. 4, 2012

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