DACA and California’s education system: Some answers to common questions

The White HouseOn Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and gave Congress the option to create a legislative replacement within six months “should it choose to do so.”

Under President Trump’s plan, the federal government will no longer accept new DACA applications, and current DACA holders can seek renewals once before Oct. 5 and only if their current permits expire before March 5, 2018.

What is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program?

President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals through executive order in 2012. The program allows young undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday — and have been in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 — to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation as long as they meet specific guidelines.

The individuals also receive eligibility for a work permit. President Obama established DACA with the understanding that these individuals have lived much of their lives in the United States, and they were considered “low priority” for immigration enforcement.

How many individuals are impacted in California and Orange County by DACA?

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved 242,339 DACA applications from California residents since 2012. Nationally, the government has accepted 886,814 DACA applications. The organization also estimates that Orange County has a DACA-eligible population of 54,000 residents but does not have figures on the actual number of DACA applications approved.

Does this change immigration enforcement for students in K-12 schools, colleges and universities?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has historically maintained that daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; and related sites are “sensitive locations.” These are places where “enforcement actions would not occur” unless prior approval was granted by a supervisory official at the site, other law enforcement actions were already taking place, or other extenuating circumstances. Federal officials have not indicated that they are considering a change to this policy.

It’s also worth noting that current law states that school-age children who reside in California cannot be denied a free public education based on citizenship status. Resident students are required by statute to attend public school from ages six to 18.

“This decision at the federal level obviously has the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of families in Southern California,” said Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools. “While we will continue to monitor developments, including the possibility of Congressional action, our staff at the Orange County Department of Education remains committed to doing everything in our power to support the safety, well-being and academic needs of the students we serve.”

How does President Trump’s plan affect DACA recipients when they apply for financial aid or admissions to California’s public universities?

California lawmakers approved in 2011 the California Dream Act, which provides in-state tuition and state financial aid benefits to any qualifying student who graduated from a California school regardless of their immigration status. Changes to the DACA program don’t affect that.

EdSource reported Tuesday that Lupita Cortez Alcalá, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, said California Dream Act applications and grants are “unrelated to the federal DACA program, and we cannot emphasize enough that DACA status is not required to be eligible for financial aid or admission to college in California.”