Senate Democrats are calling on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reverse her “unauthorized” decision to prohibit undocumented college students from receiving access to emergency federal assistance allocated to American citizens amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter authored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Monday, the Democrats urged DeVos to undo her restrictions, arguing that the CARES Act, which slated $6 billion to go directly to students through the Education Department, did not specify which students could have access to aid.
“The statutory text of the CARES Act allows DACA recipients to receive emergency financial aid and establishes broad flexibility to each institution of higher education to meet the unique needs of their students,” the letter reads.
The letter also alerts DeVos to the fact that they had contacted her department’s spokesperson, who they claim stated that excluding DACA recipients “is consistently echoed throughout the law.”
DACA refers to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era policy the Trump administration killed in September 2017 on the premise that it was unconstitutional.
The DACA program offered protections to young people, dubbed “Dreamers,” who were brought to the US illegally as children, including the eventual promise of citizenship if they graduated high school, sought out higher education and then either served in the military or worked lawfully for three years.
The Supreme Court is currently considering whether the program should continue; it is expected to issue a decision by June.
Menendez and Bennet, along with the 26 other Senate Democrats who signed the letter, stated that the legislation allocating the funds to DeVos’ department laid out the authorized uses for the funding, leaving it out of the scope of her authority to delegate who gets what.
“Because the CARES Act is not title IV funding, it cannot carry the restrictions of title IV funding, and does not prohibit DACA recipients from receiving support,” they continued.