On April 21, the U.S. Department of Education said that participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and undocumented immigrants would not be eligible for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which is part of the stimulus package that Congress provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to the Department of Education in early April, half of the $12.56 billion in federal funding is supposed to be directed to students dealing with emergencies during the pandemic, including paying for daily needs, buying tickets home amid campus closures, and technical support. The University of Chicago was awarded $6,207,010 from the HEERF.
Congress’s decision to exclude DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants from accessing the emergency aid means that these students have to rely on their personal finances despite the legal challenges that they are already facing. The status of DACA students is pending upon an upcoming Supreme Court decision on the legality of the program.
Despite the Department of Education’s order, the University of Chicago has resolved to continue meeting the financial aid needs of DACA students, according to a University spokesperson.
“The University will continue to support DACA and undocumented students during the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to meet the full demonstrated financial aid needs of DACA and undocumented students in the College, and through University financial aid programs for students in professional, PhD, and master’s programs,” University spokesman Gerald McSwiggan wrote in an email to The Maroon in response to Congress’s decision.
The University expressed their support for DACA recipients in January with respect to the upcoming Supreme Court decision. Vice Provost Melissa Gilliam and Dean of Students in the University Michele Rasmussen wrote in a campus-wide email to “reaffirm the University’s unwavering support for all members of our community who may be affected by changes to the DACA program,” noting that the University is “committed to helping students successfully continue in their academic program and complete their degree.”
“In addition, the University continues to provide resources to undocumented students such as legal issues workshops, specialized counseling, and emergency financial assistance for undocumented students,” McSwiggan wrote in the email.
McSwiggan further noted that the University has yet to receive funds awarded per the CARES Act and is continuing to evaluate the impact of the issue.