WASHINGTON — Schools and community organizations play an important role in supporting undocumented students as they consider their career and college options, said Obama administration officials earlier this month.
In a resource guide, the U.S. Department of Education outlined ways educators and others can help undocumented secondary and college students, from making them feel welcome in their communities to applying for financial aid.
“We know undocumented youth face unique challenges and we also know that educators and other caring adults in schools and colleges can play a major role in helping all students, including undocumented students, to achieve at the highest levels,” said John King, senior advisor delegated the duties of deputy secretary of education, in a statement.
The guide also includes information on navigating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows eligible young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work in the country. More than 680,000 children have received DACA so far, meaning the government will not move to deport them for an initial period of two years, the guidance said.
Maggie Riden, executive director of the DC Alliance for Youth Advocates, said out-of-school (OST) time providers can be a valuable resource for undocumented students, especially when teenagers have long-standing relationships with a program.
“A constant is often those out-of-school programs and the mentors young people believe in there. And that’s a really powerful thing,” she said. For example, trusted mentors may be able to help a student figure out DACA or applying to a college.
Riden said the guidance is a welcome arrival because the needs of undocumented students are increasingly on OST providers’ minds, at least anecdotally. Serving undocumented students does come with challenges, including making sure that funding is available and eligible to be used on programs for undocumented students, she said.
“I think organizations will have to be thoughtful and intentional about making sure they have the resources to serve undocumented students,” she said.
The guide includes information on the legal rights of students in schools, creating opening and welcoming communities, building staff knowledge about the policies relevant to undocumented youth and sharing information with students and their families.
It also includes information on financial aid for noncitizens, accessing education records and a list of private scholarships for undocumented youth.
Lori Kaplan, president and CEO of the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, said the guide is a good resource for out-of-school time providers, especially when it comes to understanding DACA.
She said OST providers, especially those who are new to considering the needs of undocumented students, must strike a careful balance between supporting students and overscrutinizing their immigration status.
“You certainly want to create environments where young people feel safe and welcome, but you don’t want them to feel called out,” she said.
The Education Department also plans to release a guide in the coming months on early learning and elementary education and offers copies of a presentation on DACA for community partners by email request to Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov.
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