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CUNY Chancellor voices support for undocumented students DACA recipients

Wonderlane | Flickr

CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez released a statement ensuring that undocumented CUNY students will receive emergency aid for COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, on April 22 after the Education Department barred thousands of undocumented immigrants from receiving it.

“The City University of New York is profoundly disappointed at the Trump Administration’s decision to prohibit undocumented college students from receiving emergency federal aid as part of the CARES Act,” Matos Rodríguez said.

By denying students aid, the CUNY Chancellor stated, the government is making the cruel decision to punish students that contribute to learning, community service and the advancement of knowledge critical to our society, economy and national security.

“Congress’ package contains no language regarding undocumented students [but] the Education Department’s guidance essentially prevents them from receiving any of the allocated funds,” The Hill reported.

Congress issued $6 billion in grants to help students with housing, childcare, food and unexpected costs associated with the pandemic, but U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos limited its recipients to United States citizens, some legal residents and some people who already receive federal aid.

More than 400,000 students have entered the United States illegally and more than 1 million international students are enrolled at U.S. colleges.

Likewise, there are nearly 700,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals , which means that it is likely that some undocumented students will be affected by the virus and need emergency assistance.

The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate who it impacts, and neither should the federal government,” Matos Rodríguez said. “Doing so in the middle of a health crisis is especially heartless for a population already dealing with untold hardships.”

The Education Department cited the Higher Education Act as their reasoning for prohibiting undocumented immigrants because the law has specific guidelines for “eligible noncitizens.”

“The CARES Act makes clear that this taxpayer funded relief fund should be targeted to U.S. citizens, which is consistently echoed throughout the law,” Education Department spokesperson Angela Morabito said.

Despite the federal government’s choice, Matos Rodríguez has made it clear that CUNY will support students of all backgrounds, regardless of citizenship status.

“We are committed to the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students on our campuses, and we will do whatever we can to ensure they have the resources they need to continue their education and weather these difficult times,” he said. “They are our neighbors and friends who, like other immigrants, add to the diversity that enriches our City, our State and our Nation. They are Americans in all but legal status and our commitment to them will never waver.”

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