Verify: What programs are available to undocumented immigrant students?

VERIFY – YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, WE’LL FIND ANSWERS

A 9NEWS project to make sure what you’ve heard is true, accurate, verified. Want us to verify something for you? Email verify@9news.com

THE QUESTION

High school and college students throughout Colorado took to the streets to protest President Trump’s decision to end DACA.

Leaders representing colleges and universities across the state, including University of Colorado, Metropolitan State University and the University of Denver, pledged their support to DACA students and employees.  

The 9News Verify team looked into the programs Colorado schools offer undocumented immigrants who are attending, or aspire to attend, college.

WHAT WE FOUND

Advancing Students for a Stronger Tomorrow (ASSET) was signed in to law in April 2013 and is designed for students who recently attended a high school in the state or received a GED, according to the ASSET website.

“This allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and receive the College Opportunity Fund stipend at Colorado public colleges,” Megan McDermott, the director of communications at the Colorado Department of Higher Education said in an email.

ASSET requires undocumented students meet certain qualifications.

Lindsay Sandoval, a communications specialist at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, provided the Verify team with the eligibility requirements for ASSET. Applicants must:

  • Have graduated from a Colorado high school or earned a GED on or after Sept. 1, 2013. Applicants who graduated or earned a GED before Sept. 1, 2013, must demonstrate physical presence in the state for the last 18 months.
  • Be admitted to a participating Colorado public college or university within twelve months of graduating or earning a GED.
  • Students without lawful immigration status are required to submit an affidavit stating they applied for lawful presence or will apply as soon as they are eligible.

Eligible students can also receive the College Opportunity Fund stipend, which is available to undergraduates enrolled at public colleges who are classified as in-state students for tuition purposes.

The Colorado General Assembly sets the amount annually. The amount for the Fall 2017 semester, and the first Quarter of 2017, was set to $77.00 per semester credit hour for eligible students at participating public colleges, according to the College Opportunity Fund website.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DACA AND ASSET

ASSET and DACA both affect undocumented youth, but there are distinctions between the two.

According to the Colorado ASSET website, ASSET is state law involving the cost of attending Colorado public higher education institutions.

ASSET does not involve immigration status or lawful presence.

“This is not affected by the recent DACA change,” McDermott said.

DACA is a federal policy allowing qualified people to receive work authorization and protection from deportation.

“Students who qualify for ASSET do not automatically qualify for DACA, and vice versa,” according to the Colorado ASSET website.

The previous guidelines for DACA applicants were more extensive than the eligibility requirements for ASSET. According to the Department of Homeland Security website, people meeting the following criteria could apply for DACA:

  • Under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Came to the U.S. before applicant’s 16th birthday
  • Continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, to the present
  • Present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, as well as when making the request for deferred action
  • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • Currently in school or graduated, earned a certificate of completion from high school or a GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces
  • Not convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and are not a threat to national security or public safety

UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION

The 9News Verify team found undocumented children are not denied access to elementary education, which is a rule protected by federal law.

“States cannot constitutionally deny students a free and public education on account of their immigration status,” said Jeremy Meyer, the director of communications at the Colorado Department of Education.

In 2014 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter on the rights of all children to enroll in public schools.

According to the letter, “Student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status…contravene Federal law.”

The letter also states districts are not allowed to request information about race, color, or national origin and use it to deny access to public schools.

“The United States Supreme Court held in the case of Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), that a State may not deny access to a basic public education to any child residing in the State, whether present in the United States legally or otherwise,” according to the letter.

Meyer said no one is questioned about anything; kids come in and can be taught.

“We teach every child,” Meyer said.

 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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