Healey sues Trump over immigrant ed aid

Says CARES Act funds can go to undocumented students

MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL Maura Healey sued the Trump administration on Thursday seeking to block a rule barring colleges and universities from using federal stimulus money to provide financial aid to certain immigrant college students. 

“This is yet another senseless, cruel attempt from the Trump Administration to harm immigrant and other vulnerable students by blocking them from accessing relief under the CARES Act,” said Healey.  

Healey’s lawsuit is one of several nationwide challenging the Trump administration’s interpretation of the CARES Act, which provided $14.3 billion to universities, with the requirement that half of the money be used for emergency grants to students facing COVID-related disruption of campus operations, housing, and health care costs.  

In June, the Department of Education, citing vague sections of the law, imposed restrictions declaring that only students eligible to receive federal financial assistance under the Higher Education Act of 1965 could receive help.  

The restriction excludes students who came to the US as children illegally and later obtained protected status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), those with temporary protected status originally from nations with major political and environmental disasters, and those who are undocumented 

Healey’s lawsuit argues the CARES Act allowed colleges to distribute money as they saw fit during the pandemic, so asylum seekers and student visa holders should also be able to receive aid. 

According to the lawsuit, the rule would exclude over a million immigrant students from receiving aide nationwide, and tens of thousands of immigrant students in Massachusetts. 

The Department of Education did not reply to requests for comment, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said the regulations issued by her agency are in compliance with the wording of the law.  

UMass Boston and UMass Amherst were among the several universities that filed declarations in support of the suit. About 7,200 total students in the UMass system have been excluded from receiving federal help.  

“The US Department of Education unfairly limits which students can receive emergency aid under the CARES Act,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. He said that if the rule withstands the court challenge, students will be forced to delay or end their education. The university system has dispensed almost $15 million of its Cares Act dollars and has $8.1 million remaining to distribute.  

Katherine Newman, UMass chancellor for academic programs and senior vice president for economic developmentsaid the UMass Amherst campus has already received more than 600 applications from ineligible students. 

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Many of these students have acute needs for housing, food, healthcare,  and technology to allow them to participate in online studies,” Newman wrote in the declaration. The school is using its own funds to help 137 students, but Newman said there’s not enough money to help all who need support. 

One Peruvian management student requested $1,500 and was awarded $700 by the school. The student pays $800 a month for a room.  

Because my parents are not able to support me at the moment, it is very hard for me to pay the bills,” the rising senior wrote. “I don’t want to stop studying because of this pandemic and that is my main concern. My education is something I work hard on and it would be devastating for me to not be able to finish with only one year left.