LOS ANGELES — A series of free legal workshops to instruct participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program how to renew petitions for two-year work cards before the Oct. 5 deadline set by President Donald Trump are being held across the region.
The workshops are sponsored by legal firms, local nongovernment organizations, universities and students’ coalitions who worry about the fate of 223,000 California beneficiaries of the DACA program created in 2012 by former President Barack Obama, which grants temporary immigration relief to migrants whose parents brought them into the country as children.
DACA beneficiaries are young adults who grew up and attended schools in the United States, haven’t qualified for another immigration program to regularize their undocumented status, never lived in their parents’ countries of birth, and often lack money to cover fees for the work-renewal application.
In 2014, there were more than 400,000 DACA applicants in California. It is estimated that 800,000 applicants nationwide received two-year working permits, could be eligible to renew them if they expire between Oct. 5 and March 5, 2018, and if they didn’t commit crimes classified as felonies or serious misdemeanors that could jeopardize their status.
President Trump decided to rescind the Obama executive action program after March 5, 2018, squeezed its beneficiaries to get work permits for the last time under DACA, and said Congress should pass legislation that offers a path for their legal residency.
“These are students who need help in the process of filing out applications for permit renewals and are struggling with lack of money,” said Luz Borjon Montalvo, director of Dreamers Resource Center at Cal State Los Angeles. “I give assistance every day, at least once an hour every hour to students and the community asking about DACA. It’s a constant.”
She said the Dreamers Resource Center has offered assistance from a pro-bono attorney to evaluate each student’s case, and counsel on renewal of required paperwork.
Montalvo estimates 1,500 students at Cal State L.A. may be currently undocumented, but declined to comment on DACA statistics because universities don’t keep records of those cases.
Anabella Bastilla, director of the Council of Mexican Immigrants Federations in Los Angeles, said a workshop coordinated with Cal State Northridge on Sept. 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. will address issues such as how to submit the right fingerprint forms, what do to with previous permits, the type of pictures required and how low-income applicants can qualify for assistance to cover the $495 filing fee.
The Northridge workshop will include lawyers and paralegals from the firms El Rescate and One Justice to answers questions and provide guidance on filing the immigration forms correctly.
“We want to be sure all the qualifying applicants are serviced with information from lawyers and staff with experience on this issue,” Bastilla said. “We don’t want to run into cases where students don’t renew because they lack money, or because some get married, quit the renewal process and end up with no filings of any kind.”
She said Mexican consulates in the region are working in coordination with her agency and others in the country to help DACA applicants born in Mexico with cash to pay for filing fees.
In addition, the Guatemalan consulates are pitching in cash for DACA applicants born in that Central American nation.
Bastilla indicated parents of DACA recipients have played a key role in the initial application and renewal of their children’s work permits, and are consistently encouraging them to learn about procedures issued by the Department of Homeland Security.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do for those whose permits expired before Sept. 5, or for students who either got confused with fingerprint forms and didn’t file them correctly on time, or for those without money whose permits expired months ago,” Bastilla said.
She recalled a case of a male student with a deadline to renew his work card last July, but couldn’t do it because he didn’t have the money. When the applicant realized the consequences, he started to cry in front of her.
Silvia, a DACA recipient working for the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective, a community engagement organization, said a legal clinic Sept. 16 in Riverside drew the attention of nearly 100 people, and 15 applicants were able to finish their renewal petitions with the advice of immigration attorneys.
Silvia, who graduated from UC Riverside with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, declined to give her last name, but said the workshops include valuable information for all immigrants threatened with pending deportations, and for those in the country without documents.
“During the presentations, some stayed to learn about their rights, how AB 60 (the California law that allows undocumented adults to apply for a driver’s license) affects them, about the state’s Dream Act and other issues,” Silvia said.
To qualify for the program, DACA students must have entered the United States before 2007, before they reached the age of 16, are enrolled in high school, graduated from it, were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012 and received honorable discharge from the military.
Work permit students must bring to the clinics copies of previous DACA applications, current work cards, their Social Security card, the initial approval notice form i-797 and two passport-sized photos.