Department of Education Releases Resource Guide for Undocumented Students

The U.S. Department of Education released a resource guide designed to help undocumented students navigate the secondary and postsecondary school systems on Oct. 20. This resource guide aims to ensure that undocumented youth are on a path to success regardless of their immigration status.

Deputy Education Secretary John King commented in a press statement that despite the challenges that undocumented students face, educators are capable of providing help and supporting them.

“Our nation’s public schools should be welcoming, safe and supportive places where all students, regardless of their zip code or where they were born, are given the opportunity to succeed,” King said. “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.”

The guide includes specifics such as a summary of undocumented students’ rights, tips for educators on how to help undocumented students navigate the college admissions process, information on federal financial aid, scholarships for undocumented youth and information for students in the Migrant Education Program.

This guide has been praised by many as a step in the right direction when it comes to helping the nation’s undocumented students. Jessica Munoz, the Undocumented Student Services Coordinator at UCSD, explained the importance of the U.S. Department of Education reaching out to serve this demographic and why this resource guide is beneficial to both students and educators in a statement to the UCSD Guardian.

“It is helpful to see the U. S. Department of Education joining this important conversation and demonstrating a commitment to serving this often under-resourced group of students,” Munoz said. “Resources like this guide can be an important tool, not only for students, but for the teachers and counselors who support them. Students benefit from written information, but they also benefit from caring, personalized support, which is what we aim to provide at the UC San Diego’s Undocumented Student Services Center.”

Lynn Neault, the vice chancellor of student services at the San Diego Community College District, described how the resource guide is a combination of laws and various resources necessary to support undocumented students.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised [about the resource guide] because I think there’s been a lot of acknowledgement that this is an important group of students,” Neault said to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “They’re in our public schools because they’re here [in the U.S.]. “It’s an important compilation of all the laws, various resources and best practices in place to help us support one of our most vulnerable groups of students.”

In addition to providing resources for students and educators, the resource guide is expected to  to help students using the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez expressed support for the resource guide because it could specifically aid DACA students.

“It’s been three years since we unveiled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, for those eligible young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “We strongly encourage those who might be eligible for DACA to use this resource guide. We applaud the Department of Education for providing these resources to the undocumented young people in this country who can benefit from DACA.”

However, there are critics of this resource guide who assert that the guide is part of a political agenda. Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C. explained in a statement that this guide is politically motivated.

“I think this is part of the [Obama] administration’s agenda to push the idea that if you’re in the country illegally, this is no big deal,” Mehlman said to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That our immigration laws are inconsequential.”

The U.S. Department of Education plans on releasing another resource guide specifically geared toward undocumented students in the elementary school level in the next few months.