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.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Scary Stuff': GOP Election Deniers Surge to Victory in 2024 Battlegrounds

"This is how our democracy could crumble, quickly and quietly," warned one observer.

Jake Johnson ·

On Social Security's 87th Birthday, Progressives Warn GOP Wants to 'Take a Chainsaw to It'

"We need to pass Social Security 2100 to protect and expand this vital service," said the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jake Johnson ·

House Democrats Request 'Damage Assessment' Following Recovery of Classified Docs

"Former President Trump's conduct has potentially put our national security at grave risk," Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Adam Schiff wrote to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Kenny Stancil ·

Violent Threats Against FBI Soar as Trump Lies About Mar-a-Lago Search

Menacing messages posted online "include a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters" and "general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" officials warned.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Biggest Win for Tax Fairness' in Decades: Progressives Cheer Reforms in IRA, Demand More

"While this bill establishes desperately needed changes to our tax laws and IRS funding, it is still a far cry from the systemic changes that we need in our society to rectify the hold the rich still have on every level of our economy."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo