Higher Education Associations Support DACA Amid Legal Challenges

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by summer 2020. Higher education associations widely support the program which has helped many undocumented immigrants enroll in college.

In mid-November, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for a set of cases to determine the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program was created in 2012 by the Obama administration through an executive order. The DACA program allows qualified individuals without documentation who were brought to the U.S. at a young age to apply for temporary protection from deportation, a work permit, and a social security number. In 2017, the Trump administration called for the DACA program to be rescinded, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The call to repeal DACA has been met by several legal challenges in the lower courts before making its way to the Supreme Court in November of this year. The Supreme Court is expected to make their ruling in 2020, likely by the summer.

In response to the legal challenges, ACCT and a group of 43 other higher education associations signed on to an amicus brief stating their support for the DACA program. The higher education community applauds DACA for making it easier for undocumented students to afford and enroll in college. DACA allows recipients to receive work permits, which can help students more easily earn money to pay for their education. DACA has made college more affordable for recipients in states that now allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition, and to receive institutional financial aid or scholarships. Beyond benefits to individual students, enrolling DACA recipients positively adds to cultural diversity on campuses and strengthens the US economy by adding more educated, degree-holders to the labor force.

Research shows that the DACA program has helped recipients to enroll in college and receive financial aid for which they would not have been previously eligible. According to a 2019 national survey by the University of California San Diego and the Center for American Progress, over 70% of DACA recipients have pursued educational opportunities that they previous could not. Nearly 85% of recipients 25 years old and over have earned a postsecondary degree or credential.

Currently, the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients can keep their protected status; however, the future of the program remains uncertain pending the Supreme Court decision. ACCT supports a permanent solution to assist undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. as minors, including DACA recipients. ACCT will provide updates on the Supreme Courts’ decision through the ACCT Now site and Latest Action in Washington (LAW) alerts.

Allison Beer is the Senior Policy Analyst at ACCT. She can be reached at

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