Nearly 100K Undocumented Students Graduate from US High Schools

Nearly 100,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools across the US each year, according to a report. Matriculation continues as the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is debated. A report from the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington, DC, used census data to estimate that 98,000 students graduated from high school in the 2016-2017 school year, an increase from the previous estimate of 65,000 from the early aughts produced by the institute. While the graduation rate increases among undocumented high school students, the future remains uncertain for those who aren’t protected by the DACA program.

The report noted that California graduated the largest number of undocumented students, with 27 percent of grads having an unofficial immigration statuses. The report stated that the number of undocumented high school graduates has increased following federal and state policies that encourage students to graduate from high school and college. There are also public universities and colleges in states like California, Texas, and New York, that allow undocumented immigrants to pay lower, in-state tuition.

The Migration Policy Institute’s report argued that undocumented high school graduates may not be able to find work or attend higher education institutions after graduating. “While the legal battle over the existence and scope of the program continues, unauthorized immigrant youth (typically referred to as DREAMers) are graduating every year from high school without access to DACA protections, harming their work prospects and limiting their postsecondary education opportunities,” the fact sheet from the institute read. “These legal developments beg the question how many of these youth, vulnerable to arrest and removal, graduate from high school annually to face these limited prospects.” DACA gives work permits and deportation relief to DREAMers who were brought to the US when they were children. President Donald Trump attempted to end the DACA program in 2017 but was stopped by a US Court of Appeals in 2018, Reuters reported. Although DACA recipients can renew their applications every two years, new applications are no longer accepted.

“Having a work permit has allowed DACA recipients not only to work but also to accept better, higher-paying jobs — and in some states even apply for select occupational licenses — if the recipients have graduated from high school or earned higher levels of educational attainment,” the report states.

Some fear that a lack of DACA protections could eventually lead to a rise in dropout rates. “People will drop out of high school because they won’t see a point in graduating,” Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute and the co-author of the report told NBC News.

A report by Excelencia in Education found that 98 percent of Latino students in the US are citizens. The report also found that 84 percent of Latino students are either second or third generation immigrants while 16 percent were first-generation immigrants who were not born in the US.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.