What does it mean to be undocumented?
Typically, undocumented immigrants have entered the U.S. without inspection or legal permission or through the use of false papers. Being undocumented can also refer to a person with expired paperwork or a person in deportation proceedings.
Undocumented students are often brought to the U.S. by their parents at very young ages, have completed most of their schooling in this country, and find out about their lack of legal status when they are in high school. Not having a social security number is one potential sign of being undocumented.
The most recent data indicate that;
- In 2012, there were roughly 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
- In 2010, there were over 2.2 million undocumented students (meaning people of college age or younger) in the country.
- It is estimated that only 5 to 10% of undocumented high school graduates go on to college.
- There were an estimated 135,013 undocumented students in Texas public schools in the 2004-05 academic school year.
Although Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals now exists and provides new opportunities, there is still no specific process for many undocumented students to legalize their immigration status.
Being undocumented is tough—students do not have the same economic, social, and educational opportunities as many of their peers. At UT-Austin, there are advocates in the International Student & Scholar Services office and the University Leadership Initiative (ULI) working to create a more supportive community. There are resources available to help make the best of students' time in college and organizations such as ULI are working to empower undocumented youth to achieve their full potential.
Undocumented Students and Higher Education
Federal law does not prohibit states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented students. Currently, at least 17 states have passed legislation allowing undocumented graduates of state high schools to pay in-state tuition for colleges and universities. These states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.
Currently, only about 5-10% of undocumented young people who graduate from high school go on to college, compared with about 75% of their classmates (National Immigration Law Center).
Texas House Bill 1403, state legislation passed in 2001, enabled students, including those who were undocumented, to qualify as Texas residents and pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state. In-state tuition is much lower than non-resident tuition and has allowed thousands of immigrants in Texas access to education. In 2011, over 16,000 students attended college under HB1403. 75% of HB1403 students are at community colleges and 25% are at 4-year institutions.
In 2005, the Texas Legislature approved Senate Bill 1528, which helped clarify the benefits offered under House Bill 1403.
To qualify under SB1528, a student must meet the following 4 criteria:
- Graduate from a public or private high school, or receive a GED, in Texas;
- Reside in Texas for at least the 3 years leading up to high school graduation or receiving a GED;
- Reside in Texas for the 12 consecutive months right before the semester the student is enrolling in college; and
- Provide the institution an affidavit stating that they will file an application to become a U.S. permanent resident as soon as they are eligible to do so.
Immigrant students who do not meet the above requirements, but have filed an I-30 (family petition) or I-140 (work petition) with immigration services (USCIS), and have received a Notice of Action as a response from the USCIS, are also eligible to receive in-state tuition if they have resided in Texas for at least 12 months.
STUDENTS WHO ARE CLASSIFIED AS TEXAS RESIDENTS UNDER THIS LAW ALSO QUALIFY FOR STATE FINANCIAL AID!
The DREAM Act (Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act ) is proposed federal legislation first introduced in 2001. If passed, it would legalize the status of millions of undocumented students residing in the United States.
Since 2001, there have been various versions of the act introduced, yet the basic outline has remained the same. In order to pass this legislation at the Federal level, the DREAM Act requires 60 votes within the U.S. Senate. In 2007 there were 52 votes and in 2010, despite passing in the House, the bill was 5 votes short of passing in the Senate with 55 votes.
In order to qualify for the DREAM Act one would need to meet the following requirements:
- Entered the United States at the age of 15 or younger;
- Able to prove 5 years of presence in the United States prior to the bill's passage;
- Obtain a G.E.D. or high school diploma;
- Under the age of 30 (some bills have indicated age 35)
If a student meets the above requirements they would then have 6 years in which to complete a two-year degree or enlist in the military for at least two-years. In the final 2010 version of the DREAM Act, the length of time was extended to 10 years.
*This information was adapted from DreamActivist