Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled new guidance Tuesday which excludes undocumented students from receiving emergncy assistance through a new $6 billion program for college students amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled new guidance Tuesday which excludes undocumented students from receiving emergncy assistance through a new $6 billion program for college students amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

'Cruel and Outrageous': DeVos Blocks Undocumented Students From Receiving Coronavirus Emergency Aid

"This is what [it's] like to be an immigrant under Trump."

Julia Conley

Immigrant rights groups on Wednesday condemned the Trump administration's decision to block undocumented students from a $6 billion aid program that the Education Department unveiled earlier this month, calling the exclusion needlessly "cruel."

To supplement $14 billion included in the CARES Act last month for postsecondary institutions and students, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released $6.2 billion for cash grants for students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The program, called the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), is meant to be used for necessities like housing, food, and childcare.

On Tuesday, however, DeVos announced that students who are not eligible for federal financial aid for college will not be permitted to access the money.

"The criteria to participate," the Education Department wrote in a new guidance (pdf), "include but are not limited to the following: U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen; a valid Social Security number; registration with Selective Service (if the student is male); and a high school diploma, GED, or completion of high school in an approved homeschool setting." 

Undocumented students who are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, also known as Dreamers, are not eligible for most federal financial aid. 

Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, called the move "cruel and outrageous."

As Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) wrote on Twitter, the CARES Act does not include restrictions on which students can access aid.

An estimated 14 million students were forced to leave their college campuses and shift to remote learning last month as governments imposed lockdowns and schools closed. Many returned home to stay with their families.

According to a 2019 survey by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University, nearly one-third of students at four-year colleges experience housing and food insecurity. The same is true for about half of students at two-year institutions.

The Education Department's new rule was issued two months before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down a ruling on whether the DACA program should continue. 

As Cristina Jimenez, co-founder of youth-led immigrant rights group United We Dream, wrote on social media, DeVos's guidance is just one of several attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration since the coronavirus pandemic began.

"This is what [it's] like to be an immigrant under Trump," Jimenez said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·


40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·


FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Booster Shots for People 65+ and Especially Vulnerable

The scientific advisory committee voted down a recommendation for other adults.

Common Dreams staff ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo