Young illegal immigrants began applying this week for two-year stays on deportation and renewable work permits. But high school dropouts aren’t eligible — unless they’re enrolled in classes leading to a GED or a job. That could mean a big demand for community college classes.
Applicants must have been younger than 31 when the administration policy was announced on June 15, brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and in the country for five years or more. Applicants must also be high school graduates or GED holders or be enrolled in school. Those convicted of a “serious” crime are not eligible.
Up to 1.76 million people are eligible or will be when they turn 15, estimates the Migration Policy Institute.
College students represent just a small share of young illegal immigrants, Roberto Gonzales, a University of Chicago sociology professor, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some 350,000 high school drop-outs could qualify by enrolling in a program before filing an application.
One student who plans to apply is Karla Campos, 25, who came from Mexico about 16 years ago and is working on her GED. Her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter dream of attending college, and she used to worry that she wouldn’t be able to afford to help them do so—several employers turned her away because she was not authorized to work.
Now that she is eligible for a work permit, Ms. Campos is confident that she can make higher education a reality for her children. She would now like to go to college, too, though it’s too soon to say what her major would be.
Enrollment in a GED program or an “education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment” would qualify non-graduates, according to federal guidelines. Dropouts can choose federal or state-funded programs or programs “administered by providers of demonstrated effectiveness, such as institutions of higher education, including community colleges, and certain community-based organizations.”
If dropouts enroll in community college, get a deferral and then fail to complete the program — a likely outcome for poorly prepared students — could they enroll again in two years when their deferral runs out? The deferrals are based on Obama administration policy, not law, so it’s hard to know.