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The Changing Face of DACA: The Impact of Policy and Rhetoric on Study Abroad Support Services

Friday, October 18, 2019  
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Written by: the 2016-2017 Diversity Abroad Undocumented & DACA-mented Students Task Force members Carol Reyes, Erica Jorgenson, Erin Santana, and Nicole Desjardins Gowdy.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is “a use of prosecutorial discretion [by immigration authorities] to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, 2016). DACA provides temporary protection from deportation for two years at a time and allows the individual to obtain a driver’s license, a social security number, and work authorization, and also allows the individual to study abroad. Currently, there are over 886,000 recipients of DACA (USCIS, 2017) and approximately 1,932,000 individuals who are eligible (Migration Policy Institute [MPI], 2017). 


Another benefit to DACA recipients has been the opportunity to travel abroad for specific reasons such as: study abroad, research, medical treatment, family member illness or death, attending a conference or training, or a work assignment. DACA recipients have been able to do so with the aid of a travel document known as Advance Parole, which is issued by USCIS. Advance Parole does not guarantee re-entry, however, and it is up to the discretion of the border patrol agents whether to grant the request for parole into the U.S. at the port of entry. 

During the presidential campaign and since his election, President Trump, the Trump administration, and other government officials have given indication of plans to end DACA as soon as possible, thereby making DACA recipients no longer eligible to apply for Advance Parole. Furthermore, if DACA were to be terminated, DACA recipients traveling with Advance Parole would likely not be able to enter the United States. In this climate of uncertainty around the future of DACA, many colleges, universities, and advocacy organizations such as United We Dream have been cautioning students about the risks of departing the country during a time that the end of DACA appears to be imminent. For example, between 2013 and 2016, one institution successfully advised 15 DACA-mented students through the Advance Parole process for semester study abroad in Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Morocco, South Korea, and the UK . With the momentum and enthusiasm of past recipients providing encouragement, seven more DACA-mented students had planned to study abroad in the spring of 2017, but withdrew before departure upon considering the risks, discussing with family, friends and mentors, and heeding the advice of college administrators and lawyers.

Current State of Affairs

In the past seven months since the Trump administration took office, individuals with DACA have been detained, despite their temporary protection from deportation. One such case is that of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a young man from Seattle with DACA. Daniel was detained in February of 2017 and was finally released in March after posting $15,000 bond. Many U.S. institutions have changed their policies about students with DACA studying abroad precisely because of this change in practice and the increased number of DACA recipients being detained. 

From when our Task Force started our work last July until now, the state of DACA and the rhetoric from the White House surrounding undocumented people has drastically changed. We recommend staying up to date since policies, laws, executive orders, and support for undocumented people have the potential to change quickly. Here are just a few updates on where the current administration stands with regards to DACA and undocumented people.

The article below was featured in The New York Times on June 16th, 2017, when the current administration expressed that they would not immediately eliminate the DACA program:

‘Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S. for now, but Long-Term Fate is Unclear

However, the fight to eliminate DACA continues, as is seen in this news article below:

States try to force Trump’s hand on DACA

On July 20th, two senators introduced a new Dream Act that would provide potential pathways for undocumented immigrant youth:

Bipartisan Dream Act Highlights Broad Support for Existing Immigrant Youth Protections

However, President Trump has already stated recently that he will not support the new bipartisan plan:

Trump won’t support new plans to save ‘Dreamers’ from deportation

Survey of Study Abroad Professionals

The Undocumented & DACA-mented Students Task Force conducted a survey in which individuals from at least 29 different cities in 17 different states responded to questions about their work with DACA-mented students. In the survey, the majority of institutions stated that they do not recommend study abroad for DACA-mented students at this time, but ultimately leave the decision up to the student. Many state that their recommendations changed after the November 2016 election. One adviser said, “We were actively supporting, advising, and outreaching to students prior to the election. Our approach has changed since and may change again with Trump’s latest reversal.” 77% of those who responded to the survey said that they do have resources available for DACA-mented students on their campuses and that these resources are developed by a variety of offices on campus and in the community including the multi-cultural center, student success centers, the local Catholic Church, immigration lawyers, the Dean of Students’ office, Legal Affairs, professors, the Diversity and Inclusion Office, and others. The most popular form of support is advising and application support, but respondents also said that they provide resources for funding, institutional support, and legal assistance. While study abroad is widely discouraged for DACA-mented students at this time, a handful of institutions offer a domestic “study away” program as an alternative.

Recommendations for Next Steps 

Based on the updates and the state of the field since the 2016 election, where does the field of international education go from here to continue supporting undocumented students? After reviewing the results of the survey, many of our colleagues asked for the following:

  • Shared resources amongst institutions on institutional policies, waivers, and success stories
  • Ways to get involved in advocacy work
  • Interpretations of the current state of DACA and any political updates
  • Advising resources for applying for Advance Parole
  • Best practices for advising undocumented students and what risks to keep in mind
  • Legal advising
  • More program options and funding opportunities

Diversity Abroad Network Members can access resources in the Member Resource Center, including 5 Tips for Supporting DACA and Undocumented Students and slides from our Community Discussion: Making your institution more DACA-friendly and “undocu-friendly,” developed by this Task Force. In addition, we have published a list of resources and publications on DACA

Based on the results of the survey, the Diversity Abroad Task Force for Undocumented/DACA-mented Students recommends that colleagues in the field continue to develop shared resources and best practices in support of undocumented students to assist institutions in advising and supporting students on their campuses. This can be done either through a developed working group or a shared forum. The members of the Task Force are happy to consult with our colleagues on our institutions’ approaches and share resources developed on our campuses, upon request.

The future is uncertain for undocumented students who are impacted by the day to day rhetoric and policies that are in flux. It is up to us as educators to continue to advocate and come together to provide resources to support our students during this very unpredictable time. 

Works Cited

Dineen, J. (Feb. 8. 2017). If Trump ends DACA, here’s how many students could be affected.
USA Today College. Retrieved from:

Migration Policy Institute. (2017). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Data Tools. Retrieved from 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2016, December 22). Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Retrieved from

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2017). Number of Form I-821D,Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, by Fiscal Year, Quarter, Intake, Biometrics and Case Status Fiscal Year 2012-2017 (March 31) [Data file attached].


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