The following DACA field report comes from Carmen Cornejo of Dream Act Arizona:
About two years ago I was asked by a non-profit organization to craft an advocacy agenda on education issues since my work for the DREAM Act eligible youth is well known in Arizona, and immigrant youth is such an important part our education system and communities. One of the issues I brought up to the surprise of my fellow board members was the concern for Arizona’s high dropout rate among Hispanics and the need to make stronger efforts promoting the integration of those individuals through GED certification programs.
According to a 2010 study by Migration Policy Institute (MPI) around 100,000 undocumented youth live in Arizona, at different educational levels. Currently Arizona has an average High School completion rate of 72.5% being the Hispanic community the one with the highest percentage of High Schools drop outs. One of the factors that without doubt influence the below national average completion rates for High School is that many of the students attending K-12 education are undocumented and get discouraged to continue their education by the implementation of anti immigrant laws that put barriers to accessing post-secondary education.
In 2007 the Arizona voters passed Prop. 300, one of the first state anti-immigrant laws to target the education of undocumented students. Prop 300 denied state funding for undocumented students and practically tripled the tuition to post secondary education for students that could not prove legal status in Arizona. Other of the lesser known educational elements this proposition affected was adult education.
DREAM Advocates like myself always tried to encourage young immigrants to finish their High School and obtain a diploma since K-12 education has been protected by Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe and our knowledge of the effects of Prop 300 on remedial tools as adult education, GED instruction certification and post secondary education in general.
President Obama’s announcement on June 15th 2012 granting legal presence to undocumented young immigrants though Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the subsequent guidelines issued brought a new and sudden interest in GED education. Now the minimal educational requirement for DACA applicants is a high school diploma or a GED. According to USCIS guidelines and interpretation from practicing immigration lawyers, young immigrants can apply to DACA when they can probe they are enrolled in a GED program.
Suddenly this tool for remedial certification became important for many. Demand overwhelmed the current GED outlets, burdened by the limitations imposed by Prop 300. Institutions and non-profit organizations have been revising their models for offering GED to future DACA applicants and at three months of the DACA announcement, slowly started to increase the number of GED classes On Line and in regular classroom settings. Institutions have been revising enrollment, funding and id requirements in order to be compliant with prop. 300. Due to Prop. 300 GED programs in Arizona are not being offered for free for people who cannot prove legal status. State money is not being allocated for these classes. The Arizona Department of education has issued guidelines to ID requirements when the GED classes and tests are being paid for. Young immigrants seeking GED instruction and certification in order to apply for DACA have being confronted with unscrupulous organizations or businesses that offer instruction for high price and which accreditations is questionably. Established GED outlets from community colleges and school districts are starting to offer tuition options, some of them making extraordinary efforts to offer instruction for an affordable cost.
Using social media tools DREAM Act advocates like myself, are communicating these options for GED seekers since we have little to no-resources.
In spite of the obstacles we are determined to integrate more young immigrants to the GED instruction so they can apply to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process and increase the educational level of this segment of the population. This is an opportunity we all can benefit from.