DACA Recipients, Undocumented Immigrants Ineligible For COVID-19 Assistance For College Students

Published: Friday, April 24, 2020 - 5:05am
Yesica Pacheco
ASU senior Yesica Pacheco is among the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals recipients who can't qualify for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students from the U.S. Department of Education and the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would distribute more than $6 billion so colleges and universities could provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to their students during the coronavirus pandemic. But not all students are eligible for that money. 

New guidance issued Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education said qualifying students include those who are eligible for federal financial aid. This leaves out undocumented students and recipients of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. 

“The CARES Act makes clear that this taxpayer funded relief fund should be targeted to U.S. citizens, which is consistently echoed throughout the law," said the department's press secretary Angela Morabito.

Arizona State University senior Yesica Pacheco, who is majoring in elementary education, is one of those DACA students. The money would have helped her with personal and school-related expenses since she was laid off from her job at a Ross clothing store last month. She's angry but not surprised that the money can't go to help students like her. 

“Unfortunately, right now, I’m struggling between paying my bills or using the money I have to pay for my summer course that I need in order to graduate in December," Pacheco said. 

Karina Ruiz, executive director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition advocacy group and DACA recipient, sees this action as racist and xenophobic.

“It’s pure evil that in the midst of a pandemic, this government is more concerned about excluding these very students that probably need most of the resources that they are helping and providing with through the universities," she said. 

Pacheco said she received a $1,200 stimulus check and she already used that money to pay for rent and buy a new iPad to produce virtual lessons for her unpaid student teaching position this semester. She also cleans houses with her mom to make extra money, but they've had many clients cancel. 

"Now, I don't have the income to pay most of my bills," she said. 

Pacheco has also thought about applying to job openings at stores that are still hiring right now, but she's not sure if the money is worth putting her health at risk.

Aliento, a Valley-based undocumented and youth-led community organization, is raising money for a relief fund to help mixed-status families in Arizona who were left out of the stimulus package.

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