Undocumented parents live with the fear of deportation and they strongly caution their children to keep their immigration status private. Therefore, students heed their parents’ warning and are reluctant to talk to teachers and counselors about the constraints of being undocumented. If a student’s parent is fearful about disclosure, it may be helpful to tell the parents that there is a law that protects the privacy of Kindergarten-12th grade students, parents and college students. That law is called FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds for certain programs of the U.S. Department of Education. As a result, Kindergarten-12th grade schools and colleges and universities cannot release students’ information, including the fact that they are undocumented, except under very specific circumstances, such as a court order. Colleges have strict policies and practices about the release of student information. To see an example of such a policy, please see this website: Releasing Student Information on the Enrollment Services In addition, professional ethics prohibit the disclosure of personal information by certain professionals on campus.The Ombudsman, Psychologists in the counseling centers, and others are obligated to maintain confidentiality and will release students’ private information to other university professionals only when there is “a need to know,” and with the students’ permission.
Normally, students should not fear being “outed” on campus. Common sense however is always advised. Students must never state that they are US citizens, as it is grounds for immediate deportation when the student becomes eligible to regularize his or her status.
Stacks Image 34

Legal Resources

Being informed about immigration laws often helps students deal with some of their fears. There are a number of public legal resources where students and parents may obtain information. Students are cautioned never to take so-called “legal advice” from anyone other than a certified immigration professional and/or immigration attorneys. Bad information can cause students to engage in risky behavior that may hurt them when they become eligible to regularize their status.

Local Legal Resources

Undocumented students who are Rhode Island residents can contact either of these agencies or individuals and make an appointment to speak with an immigration attorney about their individual cases that would help them understand how to apply to college:

Dorcas International Institute of RI
Citizenship & Immigrant Services

Progreso Latino
Jessica Vasquez, Director
Immigration Services
(401) 728-5920 Ext. 319

Catholic Social Services
(401)421-7833 ext.229

Roberto González, Esq.
(Member of CASO)

Inspiring Stories

  • Sam’s Story first aired on National Public Radio's Latino USA in 2009. Listen here »
  • Amanda and Antonio, filmed and produced by Marta V. Martínez, features two Rhode Island students giving testimony before Rhode Island legislators. Watch here »
  • Lost & Found video written and produced by Tam Tran. Watch here »
  • Yaruska Ordinala’s story. Watch here »