Interior of Student Life and Wellness Building, with focus on orange chair and a table

Ways to be an Ally

We strive to develop effective and comprehensive practices that are supportive and welcoming to the undocumented+ community at Bryn Mawr. To do this, we have identified current U.S. legislation and policies in both government and education and compared it to our students’ needs and experience. This has helped us develop the Ways to be an Ally page which consists of practices and initiatives that are inclusive and provide undocumented+ students with a meaningful experience.

U.S. Legislation That Informs Our Practices

In this section, we outline some of the most important U.S. legislation and programs that influence an undocumented student's educational experience and career aspirations. As an institution committed to preparing students for a life filled with purpose, below you will find some of our current practices and initiatives that are in response to the legislation and program pieces listed.

The right to receive a basic education in the U.S. regardless of citizenship was determined through the U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1982, Plyer v. Doe. A brief description of the case is provided below.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a State may not deny access to a basic public education to any child residing in the State, whether present in the U.S. legally or otherwise. Moreover, schools are responsible for extending the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to undocumented immigrant children. (Research guides: A latinx resource guide: Civil rights cases and events in the United States: 1982: Plyler v. Doe., n.d.)

Since the decision of Plyer v. Doe in 1982 allows for undocumented individuals to receive a K-12 education in the U.S., they and their parents are also protected under the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. The FERPA statute is found at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the FERPA regulations are found at 34 CFR Part 99.U.S. Department of Education

The FERPA Act considers an eligible student to be a student who turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age. This means that once an undocumented individual turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student. “FERPA applies to all educational agencies or institutions (e.g., schools) that receive funding under any program administered by the Department [of Education]…Private postsecondary schools, however, generally do receive such funding and are subject to FERPA”.

Bryn Mawr College is a private institution receiving funding from the Department of Education and therefore subject to FERPA. For more information on Bryn Mawr’s practices concerning FERPA, click here. Moreover, we have a comprehensive list of policies and practices dedicated to protecting our students' rights to privacy and confidentiality which can be found on The Pensby Center's DACA and Undocumented Student page, here.

Part of the college experience includes finding and applying for paid internships and opportunities that enhance one’s academic interests and professional development. However, the Immigration Reform & Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 prevents individuals from being compensated for their work without legal work authorization.

The IRCA requires employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status which made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit undocumented immigrants.

Although the IRCA does not allow for undocumented individuals to be hired for compensated work, undocumented individuals can qualify for academic scholarships and fellowship opportunities. According to the Internal Revenue Service, a “scholarship is generally an amount paid or allowed to a student at an educational institution for the purpose of study. A fellowship grant is generally an amount paid or allowed to an individual for the purpose of study or research”. Because scholarship and fellowship funds are dedicated toward a student’s education, they are not considered as a form of compensation.

But what happens to undocumented individuals seeking to enter the workforce?

Although, employers are unable to knowingly hire a person without work authorization, there are a few legal ways undocumented individuals can make an earning such as becoming an independent contractor. Immigrants Rising—an organization dedicated to providing information, resources and support for the undocumented community—has developed, A Guide to Working For Yourself which outlines a few ways undocumented individuals can earn a living in the U.S.. This is a helpful guide for those interested in learning more, especially young individuals who are just starting out.  

That said, Breaking Barriers works closely with campus partners on identifying and sharing information on scholarships and fellowship opportunities to our undocumented+ community. Moreover, through our Navigating Pathways group, we offer career and professional development-oriented workshops and discussion for undocumented, DACA and TPS students to equip them with the knowledge and understanding to forge their own path.

Higher Education Action Steps & Suggestions

The following are a list of action steps and suggestions developed by Dean Castrejon for educators, administrators and students interested in serving as an ally to the undocumented+ student community.


  • Continue to abide by the FERPA Act in respecting an individual’s right to privacy & confidentiality.
  • Include undocumented students and/or designated campus contacts in spaces and conversations where decisions related to student employment and stipends, travel, scholarship and fellowship opportunities are being made.
  • Consider publishing information on the college website on processes and supports for undocumented students by office/department.
  • Develop a “Professional Staff Contacts” consisting of trained staff members across campus departments who can serve as their office/department's representative for undocumented students.
  • Create an online platform (could be a “course” on Blackboard, Canva, Moodle, etc.) or webpage listing information and resources on immigration news and policy updates, consulting immigration lawyers, employment, graduate school, and access to health & counseling services.
  • Consider including a statement on confidentiality, protections, and civic rights on the college website.
  • Advocate and support for expanding scholarship and fellowship opportunities that does not contain a citizenship requirement at your institution.
  • Advocate to invest and support for the allocation of funds to essential resources for students (ex. summer storage materials, dorm drive materials, lending programs for academic materials like calculators & laptops, etc.). What offices are currently heading these initiatives for students? What are their needs to effectively provide these resources?


Castrejon, L. (2022, December 14). Undocumented in U.S. Higher Education | Action Steps & Suggestions to Support Undocumented College Students. Philadelphia.

  • Compile a list of scholarships and fellowships available in your field that does not contain a citizenship requirement (this would open opportunities for international students as well!).
  • If not already available, consider incorporating research and/or hands-on opportunities to different locations around the U.S. as an alternative “study away” opportunity. May also want to consider working alongside your institution’s study abroad and community service offices.
  • If certain work within the academic field requires licensure or certification, consider creating a handout that outlines this information. Unfortunately, some pathways to licensure are unattainable for undocumented individuals however, there may be some that are possible and therefore helpful for students to prepare for post-graduation.
  • Undocumented individuals can seek professional opportunities as an independent contractor. Consider compiling a list of examples on self-employment or contracting opportunities in your field.
  • If your department invites recent graduates and alums to speak with students, consider including a self-employed alum on your panels when discussing post-graduation careers and pathways.
  • Connect with alumni from your program who manage their own business, freelance and/or do contracting what kind of work are they doing? How did they get started?


Castrejon, L. (2022, December 14). Undocumented in U.S. Higher Education | Action Steps & Suggestions to Support Undocumented College Students. Philadelphia.

  • If your college campus has offices/departments leading efforts on providing essential resources, consider partnering with them to increase outreach, communication, and volunteers.
  • If your office doesn’t already have a resource or opportunity addressing affordability and access, consider creating one as it relates to your office’s mission. For example, Career Services at some institutions offer a Career Closet for students in need of professional clothing.
  • The college application and financial aid process is difficult for anyone especially undocumented students to navigate on their own. Your institution’s Admissions and Financial Aid offices may consider incorporating instructions and guidance on how an undocumented student should complete your application forms. For instance, should the student select domestic or international on their application? What financial aid forms should they complete (ex. CSS Profile)?
  • Undocumented individuals can seek professional opportunities as an independent contractor. If not already offered, your institution could advocate to invest and support the allocation of funds for training, guidance and fees associated with the self-employment/starting a business process. What are the forms individuals must complete to become self-employed? What are the state policies with conducting business in a state? Does the individual need a business license? Are there fees involved? Would this opportunity be housed under your school’s Career Services office? International Students office?
  • Connect with alumni who manage their own business, what kind of work are they doing? How did they get started? Consider including a self-employed alum on your alumni panels when discussing post-graduation.


Castrejon, L. (2022, December 14). Undocumented in U.S. Higher Education | Action Steps & Suggestions to Support Undocumented College Students. Philadelphia.

  • Listen openly with empathy, everyone is coming in with different experiences.
  • If friends are planning to engage in an activity that requires a form of identification (ex. Student ID, driver’s license, passport, etc.), inform the group that identification will be needed. DACA & TPS individuals may use their driver’s license (some states allow for select non-U.S. individuals to acquire a driver’s license or at least a state ID) or foreign passport meanwhile, undocumented individuals may use their foreign passport.
  • Include undocumented students and/or designated campus contacts in spaces and conversations where decisions affecting this student population directly are being made through a student club, activity, or student government. Some examples are, a proposal for a leadership/volunteer position to become a paid position, performing volunteer work at a location that requires clearances and, planning a travel opportunity outside the U.S..
  • If you serve at your college’s Career Services, Admissions or Financial Aid office, advocate for training and guidance on understanding and supporting undocumented students in your area.
  • Scholarships and fellowships that do not consist of a citizenship requirement are open to undocumented students, if you learn about a scholarship or fellowship that may interest your peer, please share this information with them.
  • Advocate and support the College on expanding scholarships and fellowships opportunities that does not contain a citizenship requirement.


Castrejon, L. (2022, December 14). Undocumented in U.S. Higher Education | Action Steps & Suggestions to Support Undocumented College Students. Philadelphia.

If a student is seeking additional support, please refer them to our Professional Contacts list. If the student would like support in an area not listed, please contact to discuss further.

Additional resources and information are available through our Navigating Pathways moodle page. Navigating Pathways includes resources and information on immigration news and policy updates, immigration lawyer resources, employment, graduate school, and health and counseling services and offerings.

If you are interested in receiving support with advising or exploring potential opportunities you can make available through your office/department that are inclusive and supportive for undocumented students, please don’t hesitate to connect with us. Depending on the situation, you may need to include other offices such as Financial Aid and Career and Civic Engagement in the conversation, nonetheless please know that you are not alone in this process!

Consider becoming “UndocuAlly Certified” by completing our UndocuAlly two-part workshop series offered in various formats! We start our workshop series through a broad lens on what it means to be undocumented by going over some of the federal and institutional policies that impact undocumented students in their educational, professional, and personal aspirations and needs. Through our second workshop, we narrow our scope to focus on the campus resources available at Bryn Mawr while also discussing ways each of us can support students through our respective roles. Participants receive a certificate upon completion of the program. Our workshop series is offered once a semester to the entire campus community. Additionally, a customized version for campus departments/offices and a training model for student workers can also be made available upon request at