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DACA and Plyer: Two anniversaries in the fight for immigrants’ access to education

Today marks five years since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was first introduced by President Obama in response to immigrant youth advocating for protection from deportation and the right to work and go to college. Advocates are also celebrating the 35-year-old landmark decision in Plyer v. Doe, which declared that all children, regardless of immigration status had a constitutional right to a free public education. The latest post from the anti-poverty research and advocacy organization CLASP [1] explores the impact of these two milestones, and the work still left to be done. Here’s an excerpt:

“In 1982, the Supreme Court’s Plyler ruling established that all children, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to a free public education and found that denying undocumented children a basic education would create a “permanent underclass” and “foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of the nation.” The ruling, however, did not extend to postsecondary education, leaving thousands of undocumented youth—commonly referred to as “Dreamers”—with few options to continue their education beyond high school, including the challenge of lacking the documentation to work legally or stay in the country without fear of deportation.

“Five years ago today, the introduction of DACA completely changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers. The program was a response by the Obama Administration to the failure of Congress to pass legislation that would address the tenuous position of these young people as well as the incredible organizing efforts of Dreamers themselves. DACA provides those eligible with a reprieve from deportation and a work permit for a renewable period of two years. Among other qualifications, applicants must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, entered the country before reaching their 16th birthday, and currently be enrolled in school or another qualifying education program, or have graduated from high school or obtained a general education certificate. Since the program’s inception, more than 780,000 young people [2] have been approved for DACA, and a significant share are current students in our nation’s secondary and postsecondary institutions and are contributing members of our economy [3]. Through DACA, they have stepped forward in good faith to provide information on their status, allowing them to fully live their lives and pursue their goals.”

To read the full post from CLASP, click here. [1]