Immigrants Who Have Not Finished High School Can Qualify for DACA Through Vocational Training or ESL

Less than half of those potentially eligible for DACA have applied during the program's first year.
Less than half of those potentially eligible for DACA have applied during the program's first year.

[NOTE: This article was co-written with CARECEN Intern Erick Marroquin]

A year after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program began, less than half of those potentially eligible for it have applied.

Although many young immigrants heard of the program last summer, some assumed that they did not qualify because they were not high school graduates. In fact, an immigrant does not have to be a graduate or even enrolled in a high school to apply. Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss how those who never finished high school can become eligible for DACA. This article was written with my co-author Erick Marroquin who supplied the research and did a substantial amount of the writing.

The initial confusion over the educational requirements for DACA were partially the result of simple misunderstandings, but also due to the delay from the Department of Homeland Security to clarify what types of education and training qualified.

Since DACA was announced by President Obama on June 15, 2012, many advocates and potential applicants searched for clarification of the requirements. Over the course of six months, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made those requirements clearer. Among the requirements for this program is that the applicant must be “currently in school” or have graduated. There are several ways to qualify as being “in school,” which includes being currently enrolled in school, graduating from high school, earning a GED, enrolling in a GED program, or the New York State equivalent. In addition, an applicant may also qualify as being “in school” if placed in an education, literacy, or career-training program that is intended to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment.

For those located Suffolk County, the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ (BOCES) Adult Education program offers a number of training programs that may lead to placement in employment. This would satisfy the “in school” requirement for DACA applicants. Some of the training programs offered include business, computer technology, computer graphics, photography, welding, and many others. There is on-going enrollment, and the dates of enrollment depend on your interest of program. Some may require a high school diploma or GED certificate, but most do not. You must be at least 18 years old to enroll. In addition, if you are interested in the programs that require a high school diploma or GED certificate, such as programs in the medical field, the Suffolk BOCES offers an opportunity to earn your GED certificate. For more information on these programs call (631) 289-2200 or you may visit their offices at 201 Sunrise Hwy., Patchogue, NY 11772.

Similarly, the Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services offers comparable programs, which would be more convenient for those in the Nassau County area. Although the registration period already passed, you may still contact them if you’re interested in these types of programs. Additionally, if any of the programs require a GED certificate the Nassau BOES offers an opportunity to earn your GED degree. You may contact them at (516) 622-6950 or visit them at 1196 Prospect Ave., Westbury.

CARECEN has already helped hundreds of DACA applicants. If interested in starting your application process you may call CARECEN at 516-489-8330 (Nassau) or 631-273-8721 (Suffolk) Monday to Wednesday.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.