Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of our most frequently asked question from undocumented students, DACA recipients, educators, family members, and community stakeholders.

Yes. If a student is interested in pursuing higher education, they are allowed to apply to public and private colleges and universities and, if accepted, enroll as students. In Tennessee, there are no laws or policies prohibiting undocumented students from enrolling in college or university.

For students considering applying to colleges out of state, it is important to know that enrollment policies vary state-to-state. There are currently two states (Alabama and South Carolina) that expressly prohibit the enrollment of undocumented students in public institutions. Additionally, three states (Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana) prohibit undocumented students from accessing in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. When advising students on college options out-of-state, it is best to be aware of the enrollment policies in place at each state. Learn more here.

If a student is undocumented or has DACA, they do not qualify for federal OR state financial aid. To receive federal financial aid, a student must be a U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident, or an eligible non-citizen. Undocumented and DACAmented students are not eligible for the PELL grant, or for any federal student loans.

In Tennessee, undocumented or DACAmented students do not qualify for state financial aid. This includes the Tennessee Promise program and the Tennessee HOPE scholarship.

No. Tennessee has not passed any state law or policy that would allow undocumented students to access in-state tuition rates at public institutions. As of now, undocumented or DACAmented students in Tennessee must pay out-of-state tuition rates.

Our partners, The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), lead the Tuition Opportunity Campaign, which is a movement to pass a bill through the Tennessee legislature allowing undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates. Visit their website to learn more about the campaign and ways to get involved.

As educators, it is important to know that while you may be ready to help your undocumented students, they may not be ready to disclose their status to you or their peers. Students are also not obligated to share their citizenship information, and educators do not have the right to ask. Students should volunteer this information. However, there are ways to ensure that you are reaching your students who may not have disclosed their status to you. As you review college options, we encourage you to always make mention of the pathway for undocumented students.

For example, when discussing the difference between a public and private institution, this would be a good time to mention that in Tennessee, undocumented students pay out-of-state rates at public institutions. Also, if you highlight colleges and universities, highlighting some that we have identified as undocumented-friendly can help students learn about ways to finance their education. You could also consider visibly displaying a list of scholarships that undocumented students can apply for, with tips on what to know as an undocumented student.

Providing as much information as possible, without directly targeting or calling out students, is the best way to make them feel comfortable enough to look to you for advice.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an executive order announced by President Obama in 2012. DACA allows certain young people, often referred to as Dreamers, who came to the United States as children to qualify for protection from deportation proceedings and remain in the country. Young people who are approved for DACA receive a social security number to be able to obtain employment and in some states – including Tennessee – can get a driver’s license. DACA provides protection for two years, and individuals can reapply when close to their expiration date.

On Tuesday September 5,  2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration will rescind the DACA program. (To learn more about what the end of DACA means visit, our DACA information page.)

The end of the DACA program does not mean that students will no longer be able to apply or enroll in college. This does not change enrollment options (see question one).

Students may be most impacted by the loss of reprieve from deportation and the expiration of their work permit. A students DACA and work permit will remain valid until the expiration date, but after that date a student will no longer have protected status or the legal right to work. After the expiration of their DACA, students will return to a status of being undocumented. This could potentially put them at risk of deportation. Additionally, once their work permits expire students cannot legally continue to work. If a student is relying on a job to finance their education, the end of DACA could have significant consequences for that student.

Here are a few tips to help you be an ally for undocumented students in the classroom:

  • Learn the correct terminology, and why it matters. Use terms like “undocumented” when referring to your students that do not have legal status. Refrain from using dehumanizing terms like “illegal” or “alien.”
  • Do the heavy lift of learning more about the history of immigration in the United States and why some people, including your students, are undocumented.
  • Be intersectional in your support for students: Don’t assume all your Latino students are undocumented or that only your Latino students are undocumented. The undocumented community is made up of Blacks, Asians, East-Europeans, and others.
  • Display images of support for your students, including information for them on how to apply to college.
  • Incorporate self-care techniques into your classroom activity. Can you take 5 minutes a week to teach your class breathing techniques or other ways to handle stress? There is unspoken anxiety and fear in the immigrant community, and your undocumented and DACAmented students may need help processing their emotions in a healthy way.
  • Has your school, school district, school board, college, or university put out a statement of support for your undocumented and DACAmented educators and students? If not, can you advocate for them to do so?

You can also utilize our Dream Act Lessons & Resource Guide for a culturally competent manner of incorporating current themes into your classroom discussions.

Remember, undocumented students CAN go to college. Familiarize yourself with the tuition landscape, and with the financial aid and scholarship opportunities for undocumented and DACAmented students. Use our undocumented-friendly schools map and our information about financing college to understand the landscape for undocumented students, and consider having a printed list of scholarship options for students who ask.

Also keep in mind that undocumented students may be the first in their family to go to college in the United States. Ensure that they are aware of and comfortable with the process, and check-in with them often to ensure they are successfully navigating the process.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an executive order announced by President Obama in 2012. DACA allows certain young people, often referred to as Dreamers, who came to the United States as children to qualify for protection from deportation proceedings and remain in the country. Young people who are approved for DACA receive a social security number to be able to obtain employment and in some states – including Tennessee – can get a driver’s license. DACA provides protection for two years, and individuals can reapply when close to their expiration date.

Over its five year history, DACA has allowed almost 800,000 young people to pursue higher education, earn better wager, own homes, start businesses, and more. In Tennessee, over 8,300 young people have received DACA.

On June 29, 2017, Texas led nine attorneys general – including Tennessee’s Herbert Slattery III – in sending a letter to President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions giving Trump a deadline to terminate the DACA program by September 5, 2017 or they would file a lawsuit. It is widely expected that President Trump will terminate the program before September 5, 2017. DACA, as an executive order, can be terminated at any time without the need for congressional approval. DACA was passed as a temporary solution, but provides no long-term path to citizenship. Ending DACA will not fix our broken immigration system, only an act of Congress can do that. In recognition of the threat to DACA, and the short-term nature of the program, legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide a more permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants.

On Friday, September 1, 2017, Tennessee’s Attorney General removed his name from the pending lawsuit, instead urging Congress to act on the issue by voting on the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017.

Similarly, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan along with about ten GOP members Congress, have called on President Trump not to end DACA and allow Congress to pursue a permanent solution.

On Tuesday September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that President Trump will end the DACA program.

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President Trump announced that the DACA program will end, but that there will be a “wind-down period” of six-months. Things to know about the end of DACA:

  • DACA and work permits are still valid, and will remain so until their expiration date.
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process initial and renewal applications that have been filed before September 5, 2017.
  • USCIS will not accept new first-time DACA applications filed after September 5, 2017.
  • USCIS will continue processing first-time and renewal applications that were accepted by September 5, 2017.
  • DACA recipients whose DACA and work permits expire between now and March 5, 2018, can apply for renewal as long as they submit their application by October 5, 2017.
  • Any renewal applications for DACA expiration dates after March 5, 2018 will not be accepted.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will no longer allow DACA recipients to travel out of the country through the Advance Parole program. All pending Advance Parole applications will be rejected and all fees will be returned.
If you have DACA, this may an overwhelming moment. Conexión Américas and our partners will provide as much information in the coming weeks as possible to provide support and information. For now, it is important to know that:

  • Work permits are valid until they expire or the government demands they be returned. As the DACA programs ends and you are allowed to keep your work permit, you have the right to work legally until your work permit expires. Your employer does not have the right to fire you, put you on leave, or change your work status until your work permit expires.
  • Your Social Security Number is a valid number for life, even once your DACA and work permit expires. You can still use your SSN for education, banking, and other purposes.
  • In Tennessee, you can get a driver’s license if you have DACA. If you have not yet done so, apply for your driver’s license while your DACA remains valid.
  • You may be eligible for another immigration option. Contact Conexión Américas (615.320.5152) to schedule an appointment for an immigration screening or a referral to a trusted immigration lawyer.
If your DACA expires before March 5, 2018. You have until October 5, 2017 to submit your application to reapply. We advise you see an immigration attorney or BIA accredited representative to help with your renewal process.

If you have DACA and your permit expires before March 5, 2018 and you need help paying the $495 application fee, Mission Asset Fund is offering FREE SCHOLARSHIPS to help Dreamers pay the fee.

In Tennessee, losing your DACA will not affect your changes of enrolling in higher education. Tennessee does not have any state laws or policies that limit or prohibit enrollment. Students can continue applying to college with or without their DACA status.

If you are currently a DACA recipient and your DACA and work permit will expire before you finish your schooling, make a plan to speak to a financial advisor and point people for any other scholarships you have. Here are some questions you can ask them:

  • Does my financial aid depend on my DACA status? Will I be able to keep my financial aid even if I lose my DACA status?
  • Will my scholarship continue even if I no longer have DACA? Will it be available to me until I have completed my degree?
  • Are there other scholarships I can apply for as an undocumented student once I no longer have DACA?
Your work permit is valid until its expiration date. That means you are authorized to work until your permit expires. Your employer does not have the right to let you go due to your DACA status before your expiration date.

Additional advice and FAQs from the National Immigration Law Center on DACA and employment.