Skip to main content

Serving and Supporting Undocumented Youth

By: TXCAN   |   January 2022

Guest speaker Ann Marano joined Future Focused TX to discuss ways to serve and support undocumented youth in Texas. Read and obtain key takeaways from her presentation and access resources to support undocumented students in their postsecondary journey.

Working with undocumented youth can seem like a daunting prospect. There is unfamiliar vocabulary, federal/state law and regulations, and a lack of centralized resources. Thankfully, the team at Future Focused TX recently held a webinar with Ann Marano who serves as the Executive Director for Colleges That Change Lives to address some of these topics. Key takeaways from her presentation have been synthesized and condensed into a high-level overview, which we hope will provide you with a better understanding of how to best serve and support undocumented youth.

It is important to understand that undocumented youth face additional pressures compared to their peers. The greatest pressure is the constant fear of deportation of either themselves, their families, or their friends. The constant presence of stress, anxiety, and fear can make it difficult to build trust, and it often takes conscious and deliberate actions on the part of practitioners to encourage and grow positive relationships. Even if these relationships are built, undocumented youth often face discrimination from professionals at both high schools and postsecondary institutions. These stressors can lead members of this community to experience disillusionment, depression, substance abuse, and even suicidal ideation.

The uncertainty surrounding lack of documentation is similarly extended to questions about the future, such as college admissions and financial uncertainty. Therefore, it is necessary to have a baseline understanding of the terminology and facts surrounding undocumented students and their college admissions and financial aid processes.


  • Unauthorized – Lacking the authorization to be present and/or living in the United States
  • Undocumented – Lacking the documentation required to establish permanent residency
  • DACAmented – Undocumented individuals with DACA status
  • DREAMers – Individuals who would benefit from enactment of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act
  • Generation 1.5 – Immigrated to a new country before or during their early teens
  • Those Without Legal Status Privilege - Dr. José Medina
  • The “I” Word – Dehumanizing and demonizing


  • No federal law specifically prohibits undocumented students from attending a public college or university.
    • Private colleges have the right to admit or deny any student.
  • State legislation and policies both support and restrict access.
    • Texas has tuition equity laws and provides state financial aid – SB 1528/HB 1403.

Financial Aid

  • Federal financial aid is not available to undocumented students, but state financial aid may be available depending on the state.
    • Texas financial aid is available through TASFA (Texas Application for State Financial Aid).
  • CSS Profile is open to all students.

Texas Education Agency (TEA) Financial Aid Requirement Reporting

  • You are not required to disclose which financial aid application students submitted on the TEA form.
  • Individual student information is protected by FERPA, regardless of documentation status.

There are a lot of factors to keep in mind when working with undocumented youth, but there are also great resources and networks that can be accessed. Some of the largest organizations nationally and within the state include the North Texas Dream Team, RAICES, United We Dream, and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. Additionally, Ann Marano and FFTX provide a great wealth of resources which can be accessed from this Google Drive folderTexas OnCourse also provides some great resources and modules to further support your efforts in providing the best college and career advising to our undocumented students in the state of Texas.

The Texas College Access Network (TxCAN) connects and supports college access initiatives across Texas, with the goal of increasing access to college and certificate programs.