Fearing deportation from federal agencies like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and failing to distribute protection to immigrant workers are just two of other examples of how the United States government has failed undocumented immigrants during the pandemic — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos added onto this list by preventing DACA recipients from receiving emergency federal aid, which the federal government gave to universities.
The fund was enacted by the U.S. Congress under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), which provides nearly $6 billion toward American universities to alleviate the financial burden caused by the pandemic.
This action increases the financial hardships immigrants are facing during the pandemic. Immigration status should not affect an individual’s ability to receive financial aid, especially during a pandemic. It’s unjust and unethical to exclude DACA recipients from receiving financial aid during the pandemic and Congress needs to reverse this discriminatory decision.
As of April 28, COVID-19 has killed more than 57,000 individuals in the U.S, but the economic effects from the virus appear to preoccupy the minds’ of immigrants more than their health. A study in California surveying 500 immigrants found that many were nervous about the various economic and health effects from COVID-19 would affect them. The survey found that 95% of immigrants were worried about paying the bills and 89% don’t want to lose their jobs, while 73% are nervous about contracting the virus.
This is crucial, given that many DACA students work to support themselves and their families through college. Recent closure of schools and businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has financially strained these students, which makes it more difficult to access essential resources. One survey, consisting of 1,600 Dreamers in addition to other immigrant students, found that of 76% of students working while attending school, 80% lost income or experienced reduced work hours from the pandemic. Further, many of these funds were being used to pay for services like the internet, which is critical as most universities have switched to online classes.
This bill represents an unfortunate theme throughout the history of the current administration that spreads false stereotypes of immigrants and uses these stereotypes to conduct legislative decisions. For instance, in November 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that many DACA recipients were “far from angels” and referred to them as “tough, hardened criminals.” The tweet received over 77,000 likes demonstrating the harmful reality that Trump isn’t alone in sharing these beliefs.
This occurs even as 43,500 DACA recipients are working as doctors, nurses and paramedics to save lives during the pandemic. Furthermore, 21,000 work in transportation industries,12,400 operate in supermarkets and 14,500 work in the manufacturing sector, which includes the production of cleaning products and medical equipment.
DACA recipients have been on the front lines during this crisis as essential workers, keeping many other U.S. citizens safe or at home by putting themselves at risk. The current bill seems to completely ignore this fact. The least Congress could do is return the favor, do their job and provide relief for these individuals.
Since DeVos’s decision, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and other members of Congress have called on DeVos to reverse this action and include DACA recipients among those able to receive aid.
There has been support from outside Congress as well. The Emerson Collective, has created resources to assist DACA recipients and their family members during the pandemic. It has created a list of resources, such as DACA renewals and coping mechanisms, to assist DACA recipients during the pandemic.
Additionally, some colleges are working to challenge this policy. For example, the Executive Committee at NYU is working with administrators supervising the NYU COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant to mitigate the impact of this policy on DACA recipients.
However, more reliable forms of aid are needed to assist DACA students during this pandemic. Congressional policy that reverses the decision of the Department of Education is needed in order to protect DACA students.
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Email Gabby Lozano at [email protected]