Education Department: No Higher Education Emergency Aid for Illegal Immigrants

April 22, 2020 Updated: April 22, 2020

Illegal immigrants enrolled in higher education are not eligible for the $6 billion emergency funds made available by Congress to to help students adversely impacted by the ongoing pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday.

In an FAQs document (pdf) published online, the Education Department clarifies in detail how federal aid money in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act package should be spent. The CARES Act, approved by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last month, has allocated about $14 billion for higher education, with half going to students in direct cash grants to help them cover expenses incurred due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak.

When it comes to which students can receive CARES Act grants, the Education Department says that those grants are only available to students who are also eligible for Federal Student Aid, which excludes illegal immigrants, including participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Created by the Obama administration in 2012, the DACA program grants those who were illegally brought to the United States as children protection from deportation, as well as renewable work permits. In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would terminate DACA, and the Supreme Court is expected to decide by June 2020 on whether that decision was lawful.

The CARES Act itself makes no mention of who should be given access to federal aid money. The Act does, however, give the Education Department the authority to decide whether or not to cover students who don’t have legal immigration status.

The decision to bar illegal immigrants from receiving federal emergency grants comes as the Education Department starts distributing a second round of CARES Act funding for colleges and universities, a total of $6.2 billion they can use to cover their own operating costs.

“This pandemic has made clear every single education institution should make important investments to ensure learning continues when unexpected circumstances arise,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a press release. “Accordingly, the additional funds made available today can be used to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity, and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment so that at any moment institutions can pivot quickly.”

DeVos, during a call on Tuesday, encouraged institutions to go beyond the federal mandated 50 percent quota and dedicate as much of the CARES Act funds as possible for emergency grant aid for students, especially institutions that have “significant endowment or other resources.”