New Program Launched to Help Undocumented Students Study Abroad

The program will assist students who are protected under the federal DACA program to study abroad this summer.

Members of the student organization Espiritu De Nuestro Futuro Vividiana on campus at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson. The nonprofit raises scholarship money for undocumented students. (Photo by Richard Hartog/'Los Angeles Times' via Getty Images)

Jan 30, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Gionni Ponce is Participant Media’s Assistant of Advocacy and Social Impact.

The Latino Center for Leadership Development last week announced a summer-abroad program designed for undocumented students who have been granted deportation relief through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This provides an unusual opportunity for students who, before DACA, would never have been able to participate in a study-abroad program because of their immigration status.

DACA is a policy started by the Obama administration in 2012 that provides young undocumented immigrants who meet specific requirements with a temporary relief from the fear of deportation. Once granted, DACA applicants receive a federal identification card, a social security number, and a temporary work permit. If they choose to apply, they may be granted permission to travel outside the country, or what the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services calls “advance parole.” DACA does not offer a pathway to citizenship to the approximately 1.5 million immigrants who qualify.

The five-week summer-abroad program will send 10 students to Mexico City to attend classes in Mexican history and Mexico-U.S. relations at El Colegio de México. The LatinoCLD will cover the cost of air travel, lodging, and meals, while El Colegio de México will offer tuition waivers. This particular program, one of the few created for undocumented students, is dedicated to immigrants of Mexican origin. For many of these students, it will be the first time they are able to leave the United States since arriving.

“These kids have someone in their corner,” Miguel Solís, LatinoCLD’s president, told The Dallas Morning News. “They should have the opportunity other kids have to gain global knowledge.” The program was created to fulfill the center’s mission of cultivating a “pipeline of Latino leaders…to meet the growing demand for leadership.”

To participate in the LatinoCLD program, accepted students will have to apply for advance parole. The process can be a risky one. USCIS only offers parole for “humanitarian, education, or employment” purposes, which must be extensively documented; it does not guarantee reentry into the country. Reentry is left to the discretion of individual inspecting immigration officers, who can deny entry if they deem an immigrant “inadmissible,” perhaps for health or security reasons. USCIS does not provide statistics on how often this occurs. Though the occurrence seems infrequent, the uncertainty of the policy keeps some DACA immigrants from applying.

This announcement comes during a time of uncertainty for the DACA program. President Obama’s executive orders surrounding immigration reform (DACA, its expansion, and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) have been challenged on their constitutionality. Texas and 25 other states argue that the president has overstepped his executive powers by offering deportation relief without congressional approval. The Supreme Court has recently taken up the case (United States v. Texas) and will be ruling on the programs in June. The decision will directly affect as many as 5.4 million people who qualify for the programs.

Applications can be found at the LatinoCLD website and are due by Feb. 15.