The current national immigration laws and regulations have their foundation in the Federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996. It is in this context that AB 540 is best understood as California’s effort to address the needs of unprotected students who wish to continue their education. Federal and state laws are the context for several university policies, some which are described in this guide.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act 1996, also known as Public Law 104- 208, and the Welfare Reform Act includes provisions to eliminate eligibility for Federal and State public benefits for certain categories of lawful immigrants as well as benefits for all undocumented immigrants. The law prohibits:
Undocumented student from accessing postsecondary education benefits unless a US citizen or national is eligible for the same benefit.
Undocumented students barred from obtaining in-state fees or direct student aid.
Students who will require a commercial or professional license provided by a local, state, or federal government agency in order to engage in an occupation for which the CSU trains them must meet the immigration requirements of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act to achieve licensure.
The proposed state and federal legislation listed below have been pending for several years and will likely continue to be reintroduced. AB 540 students may be familiar with these and may seek information about the legislation. These include the US DREAM Act and the California DREAM Act. Students can visit NILC or Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) is bipartisan legislation sponsored in the United States Congress that addresses the situation faced by young people who were brought to the U.S. years ago as undocumented immigrant children but who have since grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble.
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and President Barack Obama announced “that certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria, will be considered for relief from removal from the country, or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.” 1
The press release further stated that while this guidance would take effect immediately, “USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application process within sixty days.” Additional information is available at the USCIS’s website at www.uscis.gov or ICE’s website at www.ice.gov. An ICE hotline is also available at 1-888-351-4024 and at the USCIS hotline at 1-800-375-5283.
Students who seek advice about applying should be told that they need to educate themselves about the eligibility criteria, gather the needed documentation and speak with a bona fide immigration expert or attorney and their parents and family members. Discretion is vital as Deferred Action is not a guarantee that individuals will be granted work authorization nor allowed to stay in the USA.
1 Press Release, US Department of Homeland Security Press Office, Secretary Napolitano Announces Deferred Action Process for Young People Who are Low Enforcement Priorities, June 15, 2012