Education Dept. Urges Schools to 'Better Support Undocumented Youth'--And Help Them Apply for DACA

Susan Jones | October 21, 2015 | 9:49am EDT
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The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday released a guide explaining how high schools and colleges can support the growing number of undocumented students. (AP File Photo)

( - The U.S. Education Department is out with a new "Guide for Success" that suggests the "important" ways teachers and school administrators can support the growing number of "undocumented youth" in the nation's public high schools and colleges.

"The Department hopes that educators, schools, and campuses will, as they see fit, draw upon the tips and examples in this Guide to better support undocumented youth and, ultimately, move us closer to the promise of college and career readiness for all," the guidance says.

Undocumented children "represent one of the most vulnerable groups served by U.S. schools," and therefore "it is imperative that educators and other personnel understand the unique needs of these students and receive high-quality training and support on how to best serve them."

The guide reviews the rights of undocumented students; explains non-citizen access to federal financial aid and private scholarships; and offers "tips for educators" on how to support undocumented  youth in high school and college.

At the top of the "tips" list: Share information about President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives temporary legal status to children who were brought to this country illegally by their parents.

Since the program began in 2012, more than 680,000 young people have received a temporary reprieve from deportation, and another 400,000  may become eligible in the next few years, the guide notes.

Beyond reducing "the stigma of being undocumented," DACA gives illegal aliens access to internships, "stable transportation and housing," and paid work experience.

In addition to promoting DACA, high schools are urged to "embrace and value" the diversity and cultural backgrounds of all students.

Specifically, teachers should "understand the cultural and educational backgrounds" of their students; they should "model multicultural sensitivity"; they should "engage in self-reflection to address personal biases and increase multicultural competence"; and they should "incorporate discussions around diversity and immigration into instruction."

High schools also should "consider establishing safe spaces" where undocumented children can "share, engage with their peers, and build a school-based support system."

Beyond all the diversity and multiculturalism pointers, the guide urges secondary schools to help undocumented students understand how they can get into -- and pay for -- college.

Among other things, teachers and school administrators should "encourage scholarship sponsors to change their policies to be inclusive of undocumented students."

And finally, teachers and school administrators should "be empathetic and build positive relationships with undocumented youth and their families." This includes speaking to families in their own language, hiring interpreters if necessary.

'Undocumented Immigrant Awareness Day'

The tips for higher education include the creation of "open and welcoming environments" by hosting an "undocumented immigrant awareness day" on campus; educating all students "about the challenges and strengths of undocumented students, such as by hosting an Undocumented Week; and "each day, highlight(ing) an issue faced by undocumented students or celebrat(ing) an accomplishment of the undocumented immigrant community."

And, of course, colleges should designate key staff as "DACA specialists" to give accurate information and guidance to eligible, undocumented students.

There's much more in the guide, which states that these are only suggestions: "The U.S. Department of Education does not mandate or prescribe practices, models, or other activities in this Guide," it says.

The Education Department plans to  release a similar resource guide for early-learning and elementary school settings in the coming months.

John King, who is now performing the duties of the deputy education secretary, introduced the new guide during a roundtable with undocumented students at San Francisco State University, which is described as a leader in supporting the success of undocumented youth.

"The university has advisers to help undocumented students successfully navigate financial aid options and other university resources, as well as a task force of faculty, staff and students dedicated to supporting the academic, professional and personal success of undocumented students and prospective students," the Education Department explained.

San Francisco, of course, is a sanctuary city, which does not honor routine requests from federal immigration officials to keep criminal aliens in local jails until immigration officials can take custody of them.

On July 1, a Mexican national -- released because the local sheriff's department refused to honor an ICE detainer -- shot and killed  32-year-old Kate Steinle as she strolled with her father along the San Francisco waterfront.

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