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Resource Guide: Supporting Undocumented Youth

As a nation of immigrants, the United States has benefited tremendously from the talents, values, and contributions of newcomers to our shores. In the face of immense barriers, many undocumented youth have exhibited exemplary perseverance, work ethic, and leadership. Yet hurdles and challenges remain. Many educators, counselors, and school leaders have expressed interest in learning how to better support all children so that they can achieve educational and economic success – regardless of actual or perceived immigration status. Informed by research and promising practices, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) has compiled this Resource Guide to assist and enhance State and local efforts to support undocumented youth at the secondary and postsecondary school levels. 


Undocumented students represent one of the most vulnerable groups served by U.S. schools. Estimates indicate that 80,000 undocumented youth turn 18 and approximately 65,000 graduate from high school every year. Just 54 percent of undocumented youth have at least a high school diploma, compared to 82 percent of their U.S.-born peers. Further, only 5 to 10 percent of undocumented high school graduates continue their education and enroll in an institution of higher education, and far fewer successfully graduate with a degree.

Despite these significant challenges, many undocumented youth have achieved academic success – graduating from two- and four-year higher education institutions and empowering other undocumented youth through mentorship and volunteering. Case studies and testimonials from undocumented youth suggest that one crucial factor in their academic success has been support from family, educators, and other caring adults in their lives. And research has shown that certain environmental factors – such as access to extracurricular activities, advanced coursework, and engaged parents – can boost resiliency among undocumented youth, and are correlated with greater educational attainment.