An anonymous $2 million gift to the Denver Scholarship Foundation will provide aid to a group of students who are ineligible for federal assistance for college.
The gift will aid Denver Public Schools students who are undocumented immigrants but have received federal deferred action status.
The foundation also changed some of its scholarship requirements for the same group of students.
The foundation typically requires students to fill out the FAFSA, or free application for federal student aid, as a way to demonstrate need. But undocumented students can't participate in the program and so could not meet the foundation's scholarship application requirements.
Now, DPS students who receive deferred action status under a program to grant temporary work permits to immigrants who were brought here as children will be able to skip the FAFSA requirement and prove, instead, that they qualify for free or reduced lunch, which is the district's measure of poverty.
The $2 million will be divided among all undocumented students who apply, so the size of the scholarship will depend on how many students apply.
The students may also receive other foundation scholarships, making up for the fact they can't receive federal aid, foundation officials said.
Iveth Vargas, 17, a junior at North High School who was recently submitting her application for deferred action, said the money will be immensely helpful.
"A lot of undocumented students want to do a lot with their lives," Vargas said. "We don't want to be here just to be here. We want to get an education so we can help."
It is unclear how many DPS students are undocumented and could qualify for the funding.
However, national data shows that 9,658 immigrants in Colorado had applied for deferred action status as of mid-March. Specific data about where in Colorado those people come from is not available.
This year, the state legislature passed ASSET, a bill that grants in-state tuition rates to any student who has been in Colorado schools for at least three years, regardless of immigration status. Most of the students who will qualify for the foundation's scholarship also will qualify for in-state tuition under ASSET.
Who qualifies for deferred action
Undocumented youth are still applying for deferred action for childhood arrivals, and as of the latest numbers in mid-March, more than 245,000 applicants have received deferred action status.
The status introduced the Obama Administration, allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, and who have no serious criminal history, to apply for a two-year work permit and immunity from deportation. There is no path to citizenship and no guarantee that the status will be renewed at the end of two years.
Anyone who believes they are eligible can talk to an immigration lawyer for details. The federal government warns people however, to be weary of scams, and reminds potential applicants that notarios publicos or consultants are not qualified to give legal advice. For a list of qualified lawyers through the American Immigration Lawyers Association, visit: www.ailalawyer.com.
The process for applying for deferred action can change depending on each person's individual status and background, but this is a general overview:
Review your eligibility. To qualify you must meet all of the following criteria:
Entered the U.S. before the age of 16
Be in the country on June 15, 2012 when deferred action status was announced
Must be 15-year old or older unless already in removal proceedings, but younger than 31 on June 15, 2012
Must have been in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007
Must be in school, already graduated or obtained certification of completion from high school, obtained a General Equivalency Diploma, or GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran
No previous convictions including any felony, serious misdemeanors, or more than three minor misdemeanors
Gather paperwork to prove you meet each of the requirements listed above. The U.S. Center for Immigration Services provides suggestions on possible documentation, including school documents, travel documents, receipts and religious or medical records. Any foreign documents that are not in English must be translated by an interpreter and certified. Various news agencies report applicants have earned deferred action with a wide variety of documenting evidence, including XBOX video game reports showing gaming interaction and downloads.
File and submit the forms with evidence collected. The forms I-821D, I-765 and I-765WS are the required forms for most cases, and they can be downloaded and printed for free from www.uscis.gov/forms.
There is a fee of $465 total that has to be paid when the forms are submitted.
For applicants from Colorado, forms must be mailed to USCIS P.O. Box 21281 Phoenix, AZ 85036. Or to send by express mail, forms must be sent to USCIS Attn: AOS 1820 E. Sky Harbor Circle S. Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ 85034.
Once the application is received, you may be asked for more documentation, or if it is deemed enough, you will be contacted for a biometrics appointment.
You are not allowed to travel outside of the country while the application is being reviewed.