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Nienhusser and Dougherty on Obama's Immigration Proposal: Not Enough on College Access

By H. Kenny Nienhusser and Kevin J. Dougherty

With lawmakers failing to enact comprehensive immigration in the last decade, President Obama is expected to use executive action to reduce the threat of deportation and provide work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants.

Features of this policy are expected to be similar to Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, unveiled in June 2012, which provided similar benefits to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth. However, Obama’s policy does not guarantee higher education benefits to DACA recipients. It does not provide federal financial aid or assure eligibility to pay instate tuition at state public institutions. Thus, DACA falls well short of providing the higher education benefits that undocumented students deserve and need in their attempt to enroll and succeed in higher education.

The lack of financial aid and guaranteed instate tuition eligibility has contributed to undocumented students having higher education enrollment rates only half as great as those of documented immigrants and individuals born in the United States. Obama’s policy will likely create a category, as has DACA, of “documented-undocumented” families who will continue to face significant barriers in their attempt to receive higher education. Thus, however worthy Obama’s proposal may be, we still need for our policymakers to enact comprehensive immigration reform and not the temporary solution being proposed by President Obama.

H. Kenny Nienhusser (Ed.D. ’11) is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Hartford, where he directs the Center for Learning and Professional Education in the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions' Institute for Translational Research. Kevin Dougherty is Associate Professor of Higher Education and Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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The views expressed in the previous article are solely those of the speakers to whom they are attributed. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the faculty, administration, or staff either of Teachers College or of Columbia University.

Published Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014


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