DREAMers are launching a campaign to fight attempts to roll back the progress they've made in securing in-state tuition.
Back in 2001, Texas of all places became the first state to extend in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, according to a new report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), an organization that tracks education trends.
Since then, 17 other states, concentrated in the Northeast, Midwest and West, have followed suit, according to ECS. Five states, including Texas, California and Washington, now offer financial aid, which is still not available to undocumented students at the federal level.
But now, DREAMers say they're nervous anti-immigrant sentiment will prompt some states to eliminate the policy. In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made no secret of his desire to repeal the Texas DREAM Act, which offers in-state university tuition to DREAMers.
"A lot of our leaders, our student leaders, are fearful of not being able to go back to school," said Laura Bohorquez, coordinator of the Dream Educational Empowerment Program for United We Dream, one of the nation's largest youth immigrant organizations.
Instead of focusing on broader national policy, United We Dream will hit the ground at the state level, tracking where in-state tuition is available and offering assistance to students interested in policies like deferred action or DACA, which provides temporary deportation relief for some young people.
Bohorquez told Fusion that on Thursday, her team will roll out a toolkit aimed at providing undocumented students and advocacy organizations around the country the resources they need to access any benefits for undocumented students that might be available.
United We Dream is also coordinating with smaller youth organizations, such as the University Leadership Initiative and the Youth Empowerment Alliance, both of which have teams in Texas, to track bills and proposals aimed at eliminating in-state tuition.
Bohorquez said her team is also running a campaign to urge Massachusetts to broaden state aid for undocumented students, which right now is limited to students with deferred action. The group is also encouraging Virginia to continue to extend in-state tuition to some undocumented students despite public push back against the state's policy, which passed last year.
"I think there's a lot of miscommunication about what it means for undocumented students to access higher education," Bohorquez said. "They don't necessarily understand that students have to compete to get in and compete for scholarships and work to stay in school."
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.