Even with governors reeling over mixed messages about reopening the U.S. economy and a death count that continues to surge, the Trump White House has managed to hijack the current pandemic and use it as an excuse to push the anti-immigration policies it’s always touted. Betsy DeVos’ latest decision is further proof.
On Monday, during a late-night Twitter outburst, Trump announced that he’s planning to sign an executive order that will suspend immigration to individuals applying for job and visa applications to work and live in the U.S. He tried to mask this as a COVID-19 precaution, saying that the move was “in light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” despite the fact that the country’s bruised economy depends on immigrant labor across countless industries.
His decision was a loud one that caught the attention of most people in the country but, behind the scenes, the administration has also sneakily shifted guidance and protocols, hindering the undocumented populations that Trump has railed against for years. Yesterday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos quietly shared guidelines that block DACA recipients from accessing roughly $6 billion that Congress allocated for college students who need emergency aid for expenses like housing, food, health care and more. The sum is part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that passed last month, but colleges have been waiting on more information from the Department of Education to decide how to disburse the money.
DeVos has decided that only citizens and certain legal permanent residents can access the new Congressional aid by instituting a policy that limits the emergency funds to students who filed or are eligible to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Most of the hundreds of thousands of students attending college and universities under DACA can’t apply for federal aid because of their status, so this effectively locks them out.
Newsweek reports that Democratic leaders immediately lambasted DeVos for such a heartless move during a period of loss and panic.
“This is downright cruel,” California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted. “Betsy DeVos proves once again she’s unfit to serve all our nation’s students.”
Blocking DACA recipients for the emergency pool is even more upsetting when data shows that nearly 29,000 of them are risking their lives on the frontlines, working as health practitioners in jobs as doctors, paramedics, nurses and more. They’ve committed to helping the country and they have to worry about their legal status in addition to the monumental stress of dealing with a pandemic. In a March filing to the Supreme Court, several DACA recipients begged the justices to consider the role they’re playing in saving others. DeVos’ move is another slap in the face that adds insult to injury.