Bill Bliss

President Obama's recently announced executive actions on immigration have a potentially significant impact on many of the students we serve. The actions include expansion of the population of young people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, implementation of a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program for the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been present in the United States since January 1, 2010, waivers from deportation for spouses and children of permanent residents and for children of U.S. citizens, and proposed changes to immigrant visa policies to expand opportunities for skilled workers and entrepreneurs.

The Impact on Education

The new legalized status of up to 5 million of the nation’s currently undocumented immigrants will result in the lowering of barriers to participation in education. We know from the DACA program as well as from previous legalization programs that the granting of legal status removes the fear of registering at an education institution. With a work permit in hand, a student is more likely to have steadier employment, the chance of a somewhat better salary, and the prospect of career advancement. So with more resources and greater hope for a secure future, the newly-legalized student is likely to view further English language education, job training, and continuing education as possible—and worth it. While federal aid for tuition is not available, students in some states can qualify for in-state tuition rates or apply for public or private tuition grants.

A Student’s First Question: If I'm Eligible, What Should I Do?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted preliminary information about the president’s executive actions on immigration. Students can subscribe to receive update emails from USCIS. The agency is also posting information on Facebook and Twitter. There isn’t much students can do yet to apply for the program. The expanded DACA application process will probably begin in February 2015 and the new DAPA program process not until May 2015. In the meantime, students can gather documents that establish their identity, their continuous residence over the last five years or more, and any relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. (The agency’s information is also available in Spanish here.)

Avoiding Scams

Every period of significant change in immigration policy results in a spike in unauthorized immigration practitioners who prey on applicants. Fraudulent notarios and other scammers frequently charge high fees for questionable or illegal application assistance, false guarantees of application approval, and other ripoff practices. USCIS offers informative "Avoid Scams" tools that can serve as useful and timely reading practice for English classes serving students who are potential applicants. The information includes common immigration assistance ripoffs, how to report scams, and where to find authorized legal help with an application.


In addition to the USCIS website, here are some places to go for evolving information about the immigration policy changes, the application process, and legal assistance referrals for students:

The Administrative Relief Resource Center, a project of the Committee for Immigration Reform Implementation (CIRI), provides information about legal assistance, overviews of the policy changes, and helpful PowerPoint presentations for community education in English and Spanish.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. provides legal services through its national network of affiliates.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has established a website to stop notario fraud and other scam practices.
The youth organization United We Dream offers information about the policy changes and some compelling multimedia presentations about the Dream movement that resulted in the DACA program.
You can also follow my updates at:

 Publisher's Note:

The latest printing of the citizenship education program Voices of Freedom now includes practice with the new N-400 citizenship application form. The accompanying Voices of Freedom Activity & Test Prep Workbook features essential reading and writing practice for the citizenship exam, flash cards to help students master key interview questions, and practice tests.