Students applications for the California Dream Act, which allows undocumented students to receive state financial aid and pay in-state tuition, has gone down by more than 60 percent this year compared to last year amid growing concerns over federal immigration policy changes, state authorities said Wednesday.
Patti Colston, communications manager for the California Student Aid Commission, said only 17,819 applicants were received as of Friday, compared with 46,731 last year. With the numbers dropping, authorities blamed fear and confusion over President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policies. Colston said while a scientific survey was not conducted to determine the reason, undocumented students were afraid of sharing their personal information.
"The numbers are down so much that we believe there may be some confusion with the California Dream Act and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)," Colston said, referring to the program started under former President Barack Obama in 2012 that allows eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to obtain work permits and postpone deportation for up to two years at a time.
She said California education officials will protect student information. "This is funded by state funds. All of the data is processed here, and we do not send any data to the federal government," Colston said.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson urged students Tuesday to apply for the California Dream Act before the March 2 deadline. “It would be a shame if fear or confusion keeps students from applying for financial aid that they have earned and they deserve,” Torlakson said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Trump ordered his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively and the Department of Homeland Security announced two policy memos Tuesday. As part of the new policies, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were ordered to identify and deport every undocumented immigrant they confront. The new policy memos will prioritize undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, but will also focus on those arrested but not convicted of crimes, along with people considered to be a public safety threat.
Read the fact sheet on immigration enforcement improvements by Department of Homeland Security here.
Trump has said he could deport up to 8 million immigrants during his first months in office.