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Without a work permit, DACA students race to find a way to pay student loans

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The work permits of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients may be expiring soon, but that doesn't mean their student loans will, too.

"Earlier this year, I started paying back my student loans with the job that I have teaching 6th grade made," Jose (who didn't want to give his last name for privacy concerns) told Circa at a #DefendDACA rally in Los Angeles, California.

That means that I will not have a job once my work permit expires. That impacts my ability to pay my loans back, to pay rent.
Jose, DACA recipient with student loans

Financial stability was just one of the many things on the minds of the DACA recipients at this rally, just hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced the program's conclusion. For the last four years, Jose's status had allowed him to work as a school teacher in Southern California. He borrowed $10,000 in student loans to get his bachelor's and master's degree.

But with the rescission of DACA, his permit is set to expire next summer, with no chance of renewal.

"That means that I will not have a job once my work permit expires," Jose said. "That impacts my ability to pay my loans back, to pay rent and to live."

Andrea Nonato is in a similar position. She just took out loans to pay for her freshman year of college.

"My DACA is about to expire," Nonato, who arrived to the U.S. when she was one year old, told Circa."That means I won't qualify for Work-Study."

There is no data on how many student loans DACA recipients have taken out, but we know that overall, about 10% of undocumented students who graduate from high school go on to college, according to a 2009 survey by The College Board. (Note: This was before DACA was enacted by President Obama in 2012.) Nonato says she will probably have to find a job that pays cash in order to pay back her loans.

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"I'm not a citizen, so I don't qualify for any other loans except the DREAM Loan," says Nonato.

[A DACA rescission] means I won't qualify for Work-Study.
Andrea Nonato, DACA recipient with student loans

(Photo courtesy of Andrea Nonato)

That California DREAM Loan is one of a few state-funded loans available for DACA recipients. Undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients aren't eligible for federal government loans or grants.

They can take out private student loans from companies like Sallie Mae, but only if they have a co-signer with legal residency status. But these DREAMers' parents are undocumented as well, so they have to come up with a Plan B to pay back those loans they took out when they were still "documented."

"Right now, I don't know," says Jose when asked about his Plan B. "I've fought all my life, and I'm going to continue fighting post-DACA. And I urge everyone else to continue the fight and take it to the streets."

Related stories on Circa:
For 'Dreamers' with disabilities, it's more than work permit on the line
Why the country's most elite universities are giving undocumented students full rides
This is how an undocumented street tagger got a full ride to art school

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