Solidarity with Undocumented and DACA-Eligible Students: A Public Comment To Secretary DeVos
Secretary Betsy DeVos,
We, the Mills Staff Union, write to you to express our opposition to the regulatory ban proposed by the Department of Higher Education that would bar nearly half a million undocumented students, including those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and others, from receiving federal relief.
Passed in March, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act designated more than $6 billion to institutions for emergency grants to help students pay for housing, food, child care, and other expenses stemming from the current health crisis. The CARES Act, as written and passed by Congress, did not impose any funding restrictions based on students’ immigration status, yet your department issued an interim rule (RIN 1840-ZA04) within days of the law’s passage effectively shutting out all undocumented students, DACA program recipients, and others from receiving these funds. This prohibition, which was not part of federal lawmakers’ original intent, denies much-needed relief to more than 454,000 undocumented students in higher education, 216,000 of whom are DACA-eligible.
Currently the state of California, where Mills is located, has issued a preliminary injunction against the proposed rule, becoming the second state, after Washington, to do so. These injunctions, however, are temporary and only apply to schools in their respective states. What we, the Mills Staff Union, are calling for is that all students and families have access to pandemic relief aid, as Congress intended. We believe that the Department of Education has a moral imperative to dismantle educational inequity, and therefore we demand that your department rescind its anti-immigrant restrictions on emergency student grants and ensure that aid is allocated to students with the greatest need.
Undocumented students and communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the health and economic effects of the current pandemic. The rule proposed by your department exacerbates the already disproportionate socioeconomic burden that the public health crisis has placed on immigrants, students, and people of color. It is unethical, and it has no grounding in the law, as pointed out by the letters submitted to the Department of Education by House and Senate Democrats who crafted the CARES legislation. To quote from one of those letters, “In this extraordinary time we should not be dividing students based on immigration status or unduly limiting aid.”
As staff members of an institution of higher learning that serves many first-generation Americans, including DACA and undocumented students, we, the Mills Staff Union, are compelled to underscore our unwavering opposition to the unnecessary and cruel federal rule proposed by your department. We invite all of our union members and anyone else reading this letter to express their opposition as well by filing a public comment against the rule at this link by this Friday, July 17th. Those interested may use or adapt from this sample comment drafted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021, of which the Mills Staff Union is a local chapter.
Mills Staff Union