Skip to main content

What rights do immigrants have to an education?

Individual Rights

This guide can provide you with useful information about the rights immigrants have to an education.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

This guide provides information to help you understand your rights to education as an immigrant, and how the law affects you. 

 

Common questions about Immigration Laws & Rights

Undocumented children in the United States have the same rights as any other child to a primary and secondary education. Plyler vs. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982). Parents or guardians should follow state education laws about minors' education. In Texas, unless your child falls into a specific exception, the state requires children between the ages of six and 18 to attend school. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.085.

Yes. Only people with certain statuses in the United States may receive FEDERAL financial aid for higher education. People eligible to receive federal student financial aid include:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Permanent residents (green card holders)
  • People that have an Arrival-Departure document (I-94) with these statuses:
    • Refugee
    • Asylum granted
    • Cuban-Haitian entrant (status pending)
    • Conditional entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
    • Parolee
    • Those with a battered or crime victim immigrant status (U visa and/or VAWA deferred action status) and their children
    • T visa holder

For more information check: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/eligibility/non-us-citizens

Some states and universities have dedicated funds for undocumented students. Texas does allow eligible undocumented students to receive state aid. To qualify for state aid, students must submit the Texas Application for Financial Aid, and prove they are Texas residents. 

Higher education institutions also offer financial aid in the form of merit-based academic scholarships. Some schools participate in programs that award need-based grants and scholarships. Contact your academic institution for more information.

It depends on the state where you go to college. The Texas Dream Act of 2001 provides in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities for undocumented students if they meet certain requirements:

  • Graduated from a Texas high school, or earned a high school equivalency diploma (GED) in Texas.
  • Lived in Texas for three years before enrolling in a Texas higher education institution.
  • Signed an affidavit (sworn statement) saying that they will seek legal residency as soon as possible.

Currently, undocumented students may apply to receive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) if they meet the requirements. To be eligible for DACA, applicants must:

  • Have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday;
  • Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007;
  • Have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 (the date DACA was announced);
  • Have had no lawful status as of June 15, 2012;
  • Have been under age 30 as of June 15, 2012;
  • Currently be in school; have graduated high school or completed a GED; or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, one significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanor offenses that do not arise from a single event or misconduct;
  • Not pose a threat to public safety or national security.

For more information about the requirements to qualify for DACA, see https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

Note: The current President signaled that he might end DACA, but has not said what action—if any—he plans to take against DACA applicants and recipients. However, most immigrant rights groups agree that first-time DACA applicants should wait to file their applications until there is more information about the President’s plans. People renewing their deferred action status can still apply—but they might lose their filing fees if the program ends. All DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals should pay close attention to the news (or talk to an immigration lawyer) for the most up-to-date information.

.

DACA is not a permanent immigration status, and does not offer a path to citizenship. However, students who are granted deferred action status under DACA get certain benefits, including:

  • Temporary protection from deportation, which can be renewed every two years*
  • Permission to work legally in the U.S.
  • The ability to obtain a social security card and state ID or driver’s license

Note that the current DACA programs can change and even cease to exist at the president's discretion. Be mindful of changes implemented by the new administration in early 2017.

 

The answer to this question is unclear. The current President signaled that he might end DACA, but has not said what action—if any—he plans to take against DACA applicants and recipients. However, most immigrant rights groups agree that first-time DACA applicants should wait to file their applications until there is more information about the President’s plans. People renewing their deferred action status can still apply—but they might lose their filing fees if the program ends. All DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals should pay close attention to the news (or talk to an immigration lawyer) for the most up-to-date information.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

Checklist Steps

You can take the following steps to properly consider the guide's resources and your overall legal issue. 

  • Step A: Write Down Your Facts
    • If you haven't already done it, it is a good idea to write out exactly what you say happened in your situation.
      • Make sure to include dates and notes of any proof you may have.
  • Step B: Define Your Problem
    • Think about the problem you are facing, and try to answer the questions below:
      • What person and/or organization do you think is either at fault or is on the opposite side of your case?
      • What directly caused the situation you are dealing with?
      • If you were able to solve your issue, in the future, what would be your ideal outcome? What would you be willing to accept?
    • Try to exactly write out the exact problem you are trying to solve. This should be no more than a paragraph in length.
  • Step C: Keep In Mind
    • As you review the contents of the guide, make sure to keep your facts and your problem in mind. 

A good place to start is to review the Frequently Asked Questions, Articles, and any forms that may be available. Please note, not every guide will have a form. 

  • Frequently Asked Questions are "bite-sized" answers to specific questions visitors to TexasLawHelp may have.
  • Articles are more comprehensive guides on a specific legal subject.
  • Forms are documents you may be able to use to go to court.
    • WARNING: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.  It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation

If you need other help, use the Legal Help Directory Directory to look for a lawyer, free legal aid program or self-help center in your area.

WARNING: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.  It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation

Articles in this guide