Resources for Staff

Foundational Information

An undocumented student is a foreign national who: (1) entered the United States without inspection or with fraudulent documents; (2) entered legally as a nonimmigrant but then violated the terms of his or her status and remained in the United States without authorization; (3) has Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (“DACA”) status or has previously had DACA; or (4) is otherwise currently in the process of legalizing. 

Most undocumented students: 

  • Have lived in the United States most of their lives
  • Have learned English
  • Have attended elementary, middle, and high school in the United States
  • Have completed high school and want to pursue a college education
  • Currently lack a way to become legal residents or citizens of the United States


-Source:Immigrants Rising, Overview of Undocumented Students, 2020.

Research shows that as of 2017, there are approximately 10.5 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States (Pew Research Center, 2020). Of that 10.5 million undocumented immigrant population, about 1.3 million are between the ages 18-24 (DHS: Office of Immigration Statistics, 2014). In the state of Michigan, only 7% of the population is considered foreign born, and from that group, approximately 100,000 have been identified as undocumented immigrants (American Immigration Council, 2020). It has also been found that 2% of the children in the entire state who are U.S. citizens live with at least one undocumented family member (American Immigration Council, 2020). 

According to the American Immigration Council, there are approximately 5,250 active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients residing in the state of Michigan as of March 2020, while there has been a total of 6, 443 DACA recipients in Michigan since 2012 (2020).

Michigan currnetly has not passed state legislation that provides in-state tuition to undocumented students (ULeadNetwork, 2020). However, the the governing boards (i.e. the Board of Regents) at various public institutions and community colleges have created and adopted institutional policies that provide in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented and DACA students. 

On July 18, 2014, the University of Michigan announced a pilot program of need-based funding for undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition (ULeadNetwork, 2020).

Students may qualify for in-state tuition by demonstrating all of the following: (1) you attended an accredited Michigan high school for at least three years and thereafter (a) graduated from an accredited Michigan High School or (b) received a Michigan General Educational Development High School Equivalency Certificate (GED); (2) you attended an accredited Michigan middle or junior high school for the two years preceding high school; and (3) you are commencing your education at the University within forty months of graduating from the Michigan high school or receiving your GED.

To establish eligibility by demonstrating attendance at Michigan schools, you must complete the following form truthfully and timely: Application for In-State Tuition on the Basis of Attendance. You do not need to be a legal resident of the State of Michigan or United States to qualify under Part II.

Plyer vs. Doe

In 1982, this Supreme Court ruling determined that K-12 education is a fundamental and protected right and will be provided to all children in the United States, regardless of citizenship or residency status. 

Family Educational and Privacy Act (FERPA)

This federal law protects the privacy of student records at educational institutions, including elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Announced on June 15, 2012, this policy grants temporary administrative relief from deportation to undocumented young people. Individuals who are granted DACA are considered to be lawfully present in the United States and are eligible for work authorization and a social security number. DACA is a temporary program that can be renewed but falls short of granting undocumented young people a pathway to citizenship. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security is accepting initial and renewal applications. Please encourage students who might be eligible to apply. Below are the eligibility requirements:

  • Are under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012
  • Came to the U.S. while under the age of 16
  • Have continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to the present.
  • Entered the U.S. without inspection or fell out of lawful visa status before June 15, 2012
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed force
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors of any kind
  • Do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

– Source: USCIS Form I-821D

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Unfortunately undocumented immigrants (including DACA recipients) were excluded outright from federal health care reform. Certain states allow DACA recipients to access state based insurance, however Michigan is not one of those states. 

Common Challenges Affected Student Population at Large

  • Navigating the college admission process is difficult, but for students who come from an undocumeted or DACA background, there are several factors they must consider such as financial aid, tuition (in-state or out-of-state requirements), legal requirements, matriculation support, safety of the community, and so much more. 
  • Many undocumented folks come from low-income backgrounds and face hardships paying for college application fees and standardized tests. Fee waivers may be available, varies by institution.
  • Many undocumented students are first-generation and need support navigating the college application process with limited resources available to help in the community.
  • Financial aid is limited for undocumented students. The amount of aid available to students will vary by state. For example, students in California who meet the eligibility requirements for AB 540, will qualify for in-state tuition and will be able to access strate grants such as the Cal Grant. Whereas in MIchigan, there is no state policy offering in-state tuition eligibility requirements or financial aid support to undocumented students or DACA students.  
    • Furthermore, not all undocumented students will qualify for in-state tuition elgibility requirements at the University of Michigan, because it varies on now long it takes students to enroll into the university after graduating from high school. Undocumented students who attend community college first and then transfer to U of M, have to do so within 40 months of graduating from high school or they will not qualify for in-state tuition. 
  • Many undocumented and DACA students rely on institutional aid, private scholarships, private loans, and other fundraising supports. Oftentimes, institutional aid is very limited or reserved for students who are citizens or legal permanent residents.
  • Depending on the university and the geographic region, there might be limited knowledge and resources available to this student demographic. Many institutions in the U.S. have a very small enrollment of undcoumeted and DACA students based on state legislation. As there is no federal legislation that provides financial aid support and resources to undocumented students, each state has curated legislation to provide opportunities for undocumetned students to access a higher degree. Certain states like California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico tend to have higher enrollment rates of undocumetned students than other states. It simply depends on accessibility of higher education.
  • Students have expressed challenges receiving career support and advice as navigating and finding work opportunities is both difficult and limited for undocumented students. 
    • Employers are required to ask for proof of legal status, and it is illegal for employers to hire a person knowing that the person is not lawfully authorized to work. For many unoducmented students, it can be challenging figuring out what to do after college knowing options might be limited.
    • Undocumented immigrants have found ways to obtain legal emplyment through alternative options. More information can be found here: https://www.marquette.edu/diversity/documents/undocuguide-life-after-college-guide.pdf 
    • DACA recipients obtain work  authorization when they become beneficiaries of the executive order. There are employment and fellowship opportunities for DACA recipients, however, these students will still faces challenges navigating institutional, employer, and other legal factors.
    • Undocumented students should always be encouraged to apply for internships, some of which are unpaid or stipend based, as well as fellowships and other volunteer or professional development opportunities that might exist within the community or institution.
  • Off campus housing often requires individuals to have a Social Security number in order to sign a lease.
  • On-campus housing depending on the institution is very limited, not long-term and/or may be too expensive for students.
  • Students may feel uncomfortable disclosing immigration status due to privacy  concerns
  • Students may feel isolated or othered due to immigration status 
  • Students may feel unwelcome due to lack of representation or postiive messaging signaling undocumented students are welcome 
  • Students may feel hopelessness
  • Students may experience uncertainty about the future
  • Students may experience Imposter syndrome
  • Queer undocumented students are naviagting safety concerns, homophobia, self-exploration and more.
  • Low-income undocumetned students are figuring out how to pay for school, make money, oftentimes to support themselves and family members while going to school full-time. 
  • Undocumented students of color are facing racism, xenphobia, stigma, bias, discrimination, and more. 
  • Many undocumetned students are first-generation college students and are learning and understanding how to navigate college in the U.S. 
  • Some undocumented students hold all these social identities and others not named above, whom have historically been oppressed and exploited, impacting a students’ overall health and well-being on top of managing the stress and pressures of being a college student.

Helpful Information

  • Avoid using terms such as “illegal” or “alien” when talking about undocumented immigration or the undocumented immigrant community.
  • If a student discloses their immigration status or their family’s immigration status,  reassure the student that the information will remain confidential and private. 
  • Thank the student for being honest and open about sharing that information with you as often times it can be really challenging and anxiety-inducing for undocumented or DACA students to disclose their immigration status with other folks outside of their immediate family. 
  • Do not ask students to self-identify their immigration status.
  • Remember that building trust takes time.
  • Stay up-to-date on the status of DACA 
  • Learn about the universities policies such as the admissions or financial aid process, and what that process looks like and how it impact undocumented and DACA students.
  • Do what you can to visibially show undocumented and DACA students that you are an Ally through the use of stickers, posters, apparrell, etc.
  • Request an “undocumented students welcome here” poster from OAMI!
  • Build connections and allyship with faculty in various departments, as well as staff who work in different university services who can be points of contact for students. 
  • Become familiar with legal supports and services that the university offers. Primarily through Student Legal Services, Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, and Dean of Students Office
  • Share campus resources that are available to students such as SCOPE, the undocumented student organization. 
  • Inform students of other helpful resources such as United We Dream, Immigrants Rising, WICIR, and Michigan Immigrant Rights Coalition.
  •  
  • Create a safe space and support students with their identity development detached from all the stigma and xenophobia that exists in society.
  • Help students learn about their legal rights.
  • Connect and refer students to mental health and wellness services if needed. 
  • Attempt to build a sense of optimism and hope in that things can get better in the future.