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Senator Expresses Concern About DREAMers’ Ability to Afford College

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) expressed concern that recipients of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are having trouble paying for their education.

In 2012, Obama implemented DACA by executive order, which allows illegal immigrant children below 16 years of age to apply for legal status. These students are prohibited from receiving federal financial aid.

Outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently advocated for Congress to permit undocumented students to receive financial aid.

During a Senate forum on college affordability and student debt, Hirono asked Jess Sanchez, a teacher at Chapman Heights Elementary School, about the experiences of DACA students or DREAMers who are paying for school without financial aid.

“One of my good buddies, actually, is a DACA recipient, and he has to work 2-3 jobs in order to go through school. He’s going to the University of California, Riverside, and he has to weigh what he wants to do. It’s either go to school or help his family and he has to renew his DACA every two years so it gets expensive for him; that’s why he’s working so many jobs,” Sanchez said at the forum.

“UCR is actually a very expensive university and he’s working, I believe, 2 jobs for that and he’s putting away money for his DACA.”

Sanchez told lawmakers he has another friend living in the U.S. with DACA authorization that dropped out of school since he is not eligible for financial aid.

“He again wants to be a schoolteacher but he just can’t, and he was part of my executive board on the Student California Teachers Association and he resigned from his post; he was the ethnic minority rep for the north,” he said.

In response, Hirono said, “I think these stories are very important to bring up.”

PJ Media asked Hirono’s office if she supports offering federal financial aid to undocumented immigrants but did not receive a response.

Rohit Chopra, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who used to work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as student loan ombudsman, told lawmakers he has met many undocumented students during his career.

“One of the most troubling things is they will do anything to pay for college including borrowing through their friends’ and families’ credit cards through getting exotic loan products, and this is just going to make it tougher for them later on,” he said. “And the really ironic part is offering certain federal loans to these borrowers is profitable for the federal government.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) praised the CFPB for recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for student loan borrowers. She urged Democrats to be “really wary” of Republican attempts to undermine the CFPB, such as turning it into a commission rather than an agency with a single director.

“It does not make sense to weaken the CFPB’s ability to fight for struggling student loan borrowers,” she said.